More than three weeks after the hotly contested 2018 midterm elections, the 116th Congress, its leadership, and committee membership are starting to take shape and one thing is quite clear: the House and Senate will look quite different in January 2019.
The incoming freshmen represent many historic firsts: the 116th Congress will have a record-breaking number of women (125) and people of color (21 percent), including the first Muslim women, the first Native American women, and first female Senators to represent Tennessee and Arizona. The election will bring changes to both chambers but will be most pronounced in the House of Representatives where Democrats won nearly 40 seats, taking back the majority for the first time in eight years and taking control of House Committee leadership.
The leadership ranks of House Republicans will also look different in the new Congress. Even before losing the majority in the midterm elections, many GOP leaders announced their retirement, including about half of the House’s 21 Committee Chairs and Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI). After electing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as House Minority Leader, Republicans are now vying for Ranking Member positions on key House Committees.
On the Senate side, there are nine new Senators joining the upper chamber. Since Republicans expanded their majority from 51 to 53 seats, leadership will not change hands: Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will remain Senate Majority Leader, while Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will stay on as Senate Minority Leader. However, there will be an adjustment of Republican-Democrat ratios on Senate Committees to reflect the GOP’s expanded majority.
The deeply partisan nature of the current political environment along with looming fiscal challenges will make it difficult for Congress to pass any expansive new legislation. In spite of the legislative challenges, there is an opportunity for community development practitioners to forge relationships with new lawmakers who campaigned on issues of interest to the CDFI industry, including infrastructure, affordable housing, healthcare, economic development, and the environment.
As we head into 2019, OFN looks forward to engaging with the new Congress and introducing the work that CDFIs and our partners are leading to increase access to capital and credit to the communities they represent. We also look forward to continuing to advocate on behalf of key priorities for the CDFI industry including increasing appropriations for the CDFI Fund and other community development programs, extension of the New Markets Tax Credit program (set to expire in 2019) as well as exploring new policy opportunities.
Stay tuned next week as we take a look at key Committee Assignments in the 116th Congress.