November 2022

By Blue Star Strategies' DC Team

With 5 House races left to call, the Republicans will take control of the House – and the Democrats will maintain their control of the Senate.

Much has been written about the so-called “red wave” and why it did not materialize. It turns out that U.S. voters, while not pleased about inflation, remain concerned about democracy and took steps to ensure that most of the “election deniers” running for state and federal office would not be serving as Governors, Secretaries of State or new Members of Congress in 2023. The mid-term vote also demonstrates that voters – at least a majority of voters—are tired of the noise and disruption in politics and want their elected leaders to focus on doing the peoples’ business – not their own.

The real question is “what happens now?”. As you may have read, Kevin McCarthy was nominated to be Speaker of the House by his party. The party vote was 188 – 31. The constitutionally required vote must come before the entire House of Representatives where all 235 Members likely 220 Republicans and 215 Democrats will vote for Speaker. Assuming – and I think it is a safe assumption – no Democrat votes for McCarthy—McCarthy can lose only 5 votes in the Republican Caucus. The nomination vote demonstrates that McCarthy may very well be short the votes needed to be Speaker since 31 Republicans have already indicated they do not support McCarthy. While McCarthy has some time to corral his party members, he may have to give up a lot to his 31 opponents to come close to winning the vote for Speaker in January. Most importantly, of the 31 opponents most if not all represent “election deniers” and the far-right wing of the party. The growing concern is for McCarthy to garner the votes he needs to become Speaker, he may have to give the far-right wing of his party control over committees, hearings and investigations. If we are to interpret Mid-Term results as the voters expressing their desire for less not more chaos, McCarthy giving the right-wing of his party more power to hold investigations may likely NOT be what voters were hoping would happen.

If in January, McCarthy loses the vote for Speaker, the Republican Caucus will offer another nomination for Speaker and we will see whether that candidate can manage to get all or nearly all Republicans to vote for them. With a margin of +5 or +6, there is little room for error on the vote for Speaker.

In the Senate there was a very brief challenge to Senator McConnell’s leadership as Minority Leader from Rick Scott, Florida. McConnell was elected Minority Leader and Senator Chuck Schumer will be the Majority Leader.

Over the next few weeks, Committee assignments for each political party will be made as the work of the “lame duck” session continues. While the Democrats have control of both the House and the Senate until it recesses in December, it is likely that only pending appropriations matters will pass. The exception is the Respect for Marriage Act which would codify the right to marry for same-sex couples. This bill, prior to the mid-term elections passed the House with 47 Republicans voting for it. The bill would need at least 10 Republicans in the Senate for passage, and passed a crucial test vote in the Senate on November 16th. It is likely to be passed after Thanksgiving.