by: Lesley Witter, MPA, CAE, Senior Vice President, Advocacy
As a DC lobbyist, my life runs in two-year cycles for legislative and political issues.
Each cycle running in accordance with a two-year congressional cycle, cumulating on Election night (or when most races are called), and ending on the last day of that Congress in December, because don’t forget there is often a “lame duck” session after the election when departing members of congress get some last-minute work done!
In my younger days I worked campaigns and knocked doors and attended victory parties (and some incredibly awkward victory parties that turned into defeat “parties”).
Nowadays, I often take a break sometime between Election Day and the Lame Duck session beginning which may seem counterintuitive, but this is the perfect time to recharge while everyone else is attempting to dissect what just happened on Election Day. I have been following the election results closely from overseas, which gives an interesting perspective to how the world views our elections. The results won’t likely come in for days or maybe months. It appears to me that in the next Congress the Senate will have a slim Democrat majority. The House will mostly likely be a slim Republican majority.
Pre-and post-election there are, of course, the pundits who claim to have a crystal ball or some special knowledge the rest of us don’t have about the elections. Some of this punditry is educated guesses based on history, some is wishful thinking, and some is trying to will a desired result into existence. It’s fun to watch people make absolute statements and then move on like they never said anything when they are proven wrong.
This election was a bit odd: 80% of voters polled as “country going in the wrong direction” yet most Republican and Democrat incumbents won. Democrats spent hundreds of millions to simply maintain the status quo, while Republicans did not get the expected midterm wave that history predicted. It is likely that voters were dissatisfied with messaging from both parties.
It seems the Republican Party is also unhappy with its own leadership and concerned about their path forward. Based on what I’m hearing from Hill contacts, it seems there’s quite a bit of drama surrounding House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his suddenly endangered bid to become the next speaker.
This is not the first time McCarthy looked set to become Republican Speaker only to face last minute issues that lead to Paul Ryan becoming Speaker instead. This time it seemed like McCarthy’s turn but Tuesday’s poor showing by Republicans, along with the prospect of a narrow majority at best, jeopardize McCarthy’s path to the speaker’s chair.
Over on the Senate side, several prominent Republican Senators are calling for a delay in the leadership elections which are slated to be held this week.
Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Mike Lee (R-UT) are circulating a letter, calling for a delay in the leadership election, but also asking candidates a broad range of questions that they would like answered about the management and policy preferences of the next GOP leader. The letter reads:
We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not. We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024.
Holding leadership elections without hearing from the candidates as to how they will perform their leadership duties and before we know whether we will be in the majority or even who all our members are violates the most basic principles of a democratic process. It is certainly not the way leadership elections should be conducted in the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Accordingly, we propose that we postpone leadership elections until after we know who all our members will be and we all have a chance to hear from leadership candidates as to what type of collaborative conference governing model we should adopt.
The political environment for the next Congress will be like this Congress. It will likely be very difficult to pass legislation that is not bipartisan. Individual Senators and House members will have tremendous power. I have already heard Republican House members applaud the slim margin because they believe it will increase their individual power to influence – similar to the influence Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) and the “Squad” on the House side.
To be successful in the next Congress, the funeral service profession will need to be united on policy positions, increase our grassroots and political activities, stand united with a strong voice, and work closely with our Congressional champions to advance our legislative initiatives.
I’m looking forward to January when a new Congress is sworn-in, and we begin the cycle all over again. There will be many new faces in the 118th Congress and many new opportunities for funeral service to make an impact. NFDA advocacy staff will continue to be your full-time presence on Capitol Hill and will work tirelessly to promote and protect the profession and the families we serve. I hope you will join me and your colleagues in Washington, D.C., for our in-person Advocacy Summit, which will take place Wednesday, April 19 through Friday, April 21, 2023.