Democrats Win Control of U.S. House of Representatives
Democrats went into election night needing a net gain of 23 seats to gain the majority (218 or more seats) in the U.S. House. As of noon ET on Wednesday, November 7, Democrats have won 221 House seats and Republicans have won 195 seats, with 19 races yet to be called. Though each race is determined by its own unique factors, it is noteworthy that Democratic candidates fared well in suburban districts across the country. The House Democratic majority in the next Congress is projected to be between 229 and 234 seats.
Republicans Expand Majority in the U.S. Senate
Republicans held a 51-49 majority in the Senate prior to last night’s election. Thus far, the GOP has posted a net gain of 2 seats in the upper chamber, having defeated incumbent Democratic Senators in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota. Several news outlets have called the Senate race in Florida for the Republican Rick Scott, though Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is asking for a recount. These were all states that President Trump won in 2016. Democrats flipped a Republican held seat in Nevada, and the race in Arizona is yet to be called. Control of a Mississippi seat that is expected to remain in Republican hands will be determined in a late November run-off election. As a result, Republicans are expected to control between 52 and 54 seats in the Senate, depending on the final outcome of the elections in Florida, Mississippi and Arizona.
What’s Next - Lame Duck & Leadership Elections
Lame Duck Session: Congress will return the week of November 13 for a post-election “lame-duck” session and orientation for members-elect. There are several outstanding issues that Congress must address before adjournment, most notably funding for a host of government agencies that expires on December 7. It remains to be seen if Congress will address other unresolved legislative matters in the lame duck session, such as the Farm Bill and expired tax provisions.
Republican Leadership Elections:
House Republicans are slated to hold their leadership elections on November 14. Current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is widely expected to vie for and ascend the position of Republican Leader. He could face a challenge from Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), a prominent member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus. Current Majority Whip is expected to again seek the post of Republican Whip. It remains to be seen if other members of the GOP Leadership team will face challenges in the wake of electoral losses suffered by House Republicans.
Senate Republicans will also hold their leadership elections on November 14. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is set to resume his post as Majority Leader. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX), the current Majority Whip, is term-limited. Senator John Thune (R-SD), who is currently the Chair of the Senate Republican Conference, is expected to assume the position of Majority Whip.
Democratic Leadership Elections:
The incoming Democratic House majority will hold its Leadership elections on November 28. Current Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has signaled her intent to run for Speaker of the House, a position she previously held from 2007-2010. Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC) are expected to vie for the Majority Leader and Majority Whip positions respectively.
To become Speaker, a candidate must get a majority vote from the full House of Representatives. Several newly-elected Democratic members pledged during their campaigns that they would not support Nancy Pelosi for Speaker. In her tenure in Congress, Pelosi has proven to be adept at navigating the politics of the House Democratic Caucus, and she enters the process as the favorite to be the Speaker of the House in the next Congress. However, should she fail to garner the support necessary to become Speaker, it could have multiple repercussions for the House Democratic Leadership as other members both within and outside the current Leadership team vie to become Speaker and assume other roles within the Leadership.
In the Senate, the Democratic Leadership team is expected to remain the same, with Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) remaining Democratic Leader and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) serving as Democratic Whip.
With an eye toward jurisdiction over matters related to RNG and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), here's how committee leaderships are expected to shape up.
Energy and Commerce Committee: New Jersey Democrat Rep. Frank Pallone will likely assume leadership of this committee with broad Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency oversight, including legislative considerations concerning the RFS. Current Chairman Rep. Greg Walden (OR) is expected to be ranking member. The Subcommittee on Environment, previously chaired by Rep. John Shimkus, will be led by either Rep. Jerry McNerney (CA) or Rep. Paul Tonko (NY).
Natural Resources Committee: Arizona Democrat Rep. Raúl Grijalva will likely take leadership of this panel with jurisdiction of legislation related to energy production from U.S. natural resources. Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop will become ranking member.
Science, Space & Technology Committee: Texas Democrat Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson will likely assume leadership of this committee with jurisdiction over energy research, development, demonstration and projects thereof, national energy laboratories, and climate change concerns. Her Republican counterpart to be ranking member isn't yet clear.
The New 116th Congress
The swearing-in of the new Congress on January 3, 2019 will usher in split control of Congress. With Democrats chairing House committees, it is reasonable to assume that the Trump administration will face more oversight and investigations from Congress. Legislatively, divided government will provide a host of unique challenges for both parties as they deal with the realities of governing. The looming 2020 Presidential election cycle will add another layer of volatility to the process.
The upcoming RNG 2018 conference, December 3-6 in Dana Point, CA will have expert panels providing valuable insight on what to expect in the new Congress and how this new dynamic in Washington DC may impact the federal policies helping to drive RNG industry growth.