These days, Washington is in a constant election cycle. Certainly, many of the Capitol Hill legislative battles from last year were undertaken with an eye toward posturing for the mid-terms. A lot is at stake this November, including control of both the House and Senate.
Inside the beltway, news outlets and nonpartisan political organizations predict Republicans will win back the House at a minimum and also have a chance to gain the Senate. Part of this is based upon historical trends when the non-incumbent party of the White House traditionally gains seats in off-year elections. Additionally, given the thin margins in both legislative chambers, it will only take a shift of a handful of seats to change leadership control.
The November 2020 elections gave Republicans confidence, particularly when Virginians elected Republican Glenn Youngkin as the state’s governor. In New Jersey, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy narrowly won re-election.
As we enter the primary season, the Democrats in Congress find themselves in a precarious position. There is in-fighting between the moderates and the progressives, the President’s ratings are not helpful, economic conditions are challenging, and the pandemic continues.
In the House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats can only lose five seats. Historically since 1946, the party of the President loses an average of 26.8 congressional seats in the first midterm. Clearly, the math is not in the Democrats’ favor.
Another challenge for Democrats is the impact of the Census on the redrawing of all congressional district lines. Due to shifting populations, this results in some states losing congressional seats—California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia—and some states gaining seats—Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oregon, and Texas. Essentially, the Democrats lose about 2.5 congressional seats due to the redistricting process.
Retirement announcements are at an all-time high, too. More House Democrats officially decided to hang it up this year than in 2010 when the chamber lost more than 60 seats in the Tea Party wave. Democrats are overwhelmingly represented in the most senior ranks of House members. Thirty-nine of the 50 longest-serving members of the House are Democrats. Many of the retirees are committee chairs responsible for overseeing issues of importance to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), including Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), chair of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee; and John Yarmuth (D-KY), House Budget Committee chair.
In the Senate
Democrats also control the Senate with a 50/50 split—50 Republicans and 48 Democrats and two Independents (who caucus with the Democrats). Vice President Kamala Harris casts the tie-breaking vote.
Unlike the House, the Senate is a continuous body, with only a third of its members up for re-election every two years. This year, there are 34 seats up for re-election—20 Republicans and 14 Democrats. In a normal year, this would be a difficult cycle for Republicans to defend, but given all the issues for Democrats, Republicans have tailwinds at their backs. Most of the Senate races are not seen as competitive. However, given that a plus-one seat change is all that matters, the handful of tossups will determine Senate control. The races to watch here are: Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly (D) incumbent; Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) incumbent; North Carolina, Sen. Richard Burr (R) is retiring; Nevada, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) incumbent; Pennsylvania, Sen. Pat Toomey (R) is retiring; and Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson (R) incumbent.
A leadership change in either/both chambers would impact FPA and its members, as legislative priorities would shift and the ability of the Administration to advance its agenda would also be challenged even more than under the current Congressional makeup.
Regardless, the retirements of long-serving members will change the leadership of the committees.
Whatever the election outcomes, for FPA, the advocacy path forward will still be dynamic and the need for “flexibility” in advancing our industry’s priorities will be the cornerstone for our approach.