Lame Duck and Control of Congress

Elections/Congress

This week marked the final electoral decision in the 2022 midterms. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) held off Republican challenger Hershel Walker to keep that Senate seat in Democrat control and the party taking a majority of seats in the upper chamber. While the national media certainly paid attention to this race, a key piece of the outcome that was largely overlooked in the run-up to Tuesday is the fact that this race would dictate committee control in the Senate.

Since the Senate is currently split evenly with 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans, Senators Schumer and McConnell brokered a power sharing agreement in 2021 that stipulated each Senate committee would be populated with an equal number of Democrat and Republican members. This has resulted in a backlog of action as number of nominations for department and agency positions, for example, have not moved forward from committee because doing so would have required another procedural step on the Senate floor. With 51-49 control in the 118th Congress, Democrats will have more members on every committee in the U.S. Senate. While 60 votes will still be required on the Senate floor to pass bills, the ability of Senate Democrat leaders to move policy priorities, nominations for the Executive branch and judicial nominees through committees will be enhanced.

In terms of House leadership, ABMA met with Republican Members of Congress this week where the topic of the upcoming House Speaker election was raised. It is clear from conversations that current Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) does not have the votes to claim the gavel. The process of selecting a House Speaker will play out on the House floor on January 3. No other House business can proceed until a Speaker is elected.

There has been wild speculation about who may step in if the McCarthy candidacy fails. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) hinted that former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) could be recruited since the Speaker does not need to be a sitting Member of Congress. Some have suggested that current Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) would take a run at the Speaker position—the caucus has approved him as Majority Leader—but Members who have spoken with him directly about this scenario indicate he is not interested in the job. At this point, January 3 is shaping up to be an interesting day on Capitol Hill. 

Tax

This week, a group of 58 organizations sent a letter to all Members of Congress opposing action in the Lame Duck that would extend important tax benefits used by the business community. The letter was led by Americans for Tax Fairness and targets one of the tax provisions in existing laws that is scheduled to begin phasing out after this year. That benefit is 100 percent bonus depreciation, which allows a company to write-off the full cost of new equipment in the year in which it is purchased. ABMA has been working with our champions on Capitol Hill to extend this benefit and has signed onto several letters with other organizations, as well as sent our own letter to Congressional Leaders, advocating for Congressional action in the Lame Duck.  

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