The Congressional election on November 6, 2018 produced a new split Congress with a House Democratic majority and a Senate Republican majority starting in January 2019. The difference between the outgoing 115th Congress, with a Republican House and Senate, and the 116th Congress starting in 2019 will be significant for U.S. businesses.
While the divided Congress brings opportunities to advance bipartisan legislation involving infrastructure, energy, and pharmaceuticals, the new House Democratic majority in the 116th Congress will produce a series of new committee chairs who will use their power to oversee and investigate the Trump Administration, U.S. businesses that have benefited from the Republicans’ deregulatory agenda of the past two years, and even some businesses on less friendly terms with the Trump Administration.
One of the first examples of this will be in the energy and environmental sectors. The expected chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee has already announced plans to hold oversight hearings in the new year focusing on the chemical industry and implementation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the recent amendments to the Toxic Substances Control Act. The House Energy & Commerce Committee along with the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee and the House Natural Resources Committee are also planning a series of hearings on the Trump Administration’s plans to address climate change and regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The leadership of EPA, the Department of Energy, and the Department of the Interior can expect to testify on Capitol Hill to explain why they are replacing the Clean Power Plan and Waters of the U.S. rule, rolling back environmental protections for federal lands, and favoring oil and gas companies and the mining industry, as opposed to promoting renewable energy and protections for endangered species. These committees will likely also summon senior executives of those same oil and gas, mining, and related energy companies to explain what role they have had in influencing the Trump Administration’s regulatory reform agenda and why they are not taking more proactive measures to address climate change and global warming. Furthermore, House Democrats are likely to revive the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which was discontinued by Republicans following the Red Wave of the 2010 midterm elections.
Another example of this will be the health care industry. The same House Energy & Commerce Committee, and its Subcommittee on Health, will require the leadership of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Food and Drug Administration to explain what they are doing to reduce drug pricing. Although this issue resonates personally with the President and is one that the Administration has already begun to address, the House Democrats will demand that the Administration do more to make drug prices cheaper for Americans. Thus, the same committee will also call on senior executives of U.S. drug manufacturers, health insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers, and others to press them for plans and commitments to reduce drug prices. They will likewise press some of these same companies on their actions with regard to curbing the opioid crisis.
A final example will be the financial services industry. The House Financial Services Committee, among others, under the control of Democrats, will bring senior leaders from the Treasury Department, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and other agencies to Capitol Hill to explain why they have moderated the consumer protections in the Dodd-Frank Act and given more power and flexibility to banks and financial institutions. They will likewise bring the leaders of some of those institutions up to Capitol Hill to explain their behavior and the risks they might pose to the U.S. economy.
On November 15th, the Crowell & Moring Government Affairs Group held a webinar entitled – “Post-Midterm Elections: What to Expect in 2019.” The webinar covered the following topics:
- How will the election results impact the November and December 2018 lame duck session?
- Will Nancy Pelosi return to the Speaker’s chair?
- Who will lead the major committees of each chamber?
- What issues are most ripe for bipartisan compromise in the new Congress?
- Does the 116th Congress promise legislative productivity or political posturing and gridlock?
- Will House Democrats exercise their newly gained majority for rigorous oversight and investigations of the Trump Administration to the exclusion of significant policy work?
- How would increased oversight by House Democrats affect industries that have benefited from the Trump Administration’s regulatory reform agenda, and can these industries expect to be the target of any increased oversight?
- Are Senate Republicans prepared to work on a bipartisan basis to pass legislation or will that chamber spend much of the next two years on judicial confirmations?
- Which health care issues are likely to dominate the headlines in 2019?
- Can the two parties find any common ground on energy and environment issues?
The Crowell & Moring Government Affairs team brings experience that includes former senior staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY), former Congressional healthcare, environmental and investigative staff from both House and Senate personal offices and Committees, and legal and regulatory professionals with extensive experience representing organizations on health care, environmental, and trade matters before the U.S. government.