- Women win: Next year, over 100 women will be serving in Congress, overshadowing the previous record of 85; big wins for black women, members of the LGBTQ community, Muslim women, Native American women, and Latina women.
- Florida approved a ballot question that restored the right to vote to 1.4 million felons.
- Democrats in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Republicans still in control of the Senate
- Midterms showed national division, as suburbs (formerly R) and rural (stronger R) drove election outcomes. What does this mean for 2020? If Republicans want to regain losses, they will need appeal to the working middle class without alienating the upper middle class. For Democrats to gain power, they will need to find a rural strategy that resonates with rural voters while holding on to the suburbs.
Congress returned to Washington this week with several priorities to address during the lame duck session including seven out of the 12 fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending bills; the Farm Bill, which includes tariff issues that may make it into an international relationship issue that may shadow SNAP; Tax Cuts/Tax Reform 2.0 (fixes and extenders); and immigration.
Regarding the 2020 presidential election in sight, it is likely the House will have a few areas of focus—ethics/oversight and voting and policy changes on hot issues like immigration, gun control, health care, increasing minimum wage, and infrastructure.
The following is not a holistic analysis, rather a summary with focus on the areas of concern to the Alliance network, as expressed over the last several months.
Judiciary: With immigration issues heating up, the focus on crafting an immigration plan will come to this committee. As you may recall, the Alliance network provided comment on the Apprehension, Processing, Care, and Custody of Alien Minors proposed rule and will be commenting on the Public Charge rule. While immigration is not a specific area in the Alliance public policy agenda, the way we treat all children and families, and our role as a nation in that treatment is an area we are driven to participate in because of our values focus in public policy.
Education and Workforce: Prior to the midterms, reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) pushed through the House and Senate but conferencing the two passed bills fell to disagreement and failed to pass. Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) has a strong commitment to juvenile justice and will take the chair role of this committee, so we anticipate a continued focus and push on reauthorization.
Ways and Means: Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass) will become chairman while Kevin Brady (R-Texas) will become the ranking member. Leadership in the committee will have a stronger voice as the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) becomes operationalized policy. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), who was publicly disappointed during the approval of FFPSA in the pealing back of its intent because of budgetary constraints, will remain in the committee and serves as support for accountability and the clarity of intent through implementation.
The Senate Caucus on Foster Youth’s co-chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) returns while Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) lost her seat. The Congressional Foster Youth Caucus committee, with exception of Diane Black (R-Tenn.), who lost her seat, will return.
The Alliance believes we need to continue to elevate the FFPSA/foster care conversation as the annual report of the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), which collects and reports data on youth in foster care from each state, showed an increase in foster care for the fifth year in a row.
Housing and Community Development
With sector wide agreement on a shortage of affordable housing, there is potential for Congress to consider an opportunity to strengthen and expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit and make the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) permanent; both essential vehicles in the production and preservation of affordable housing.
- Many pundits and advocates are citing the focus on eliminating the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will wane, driving more attention to advancing health and well-being and values-based care.
- With bipartisanship necessary and the potential to find common ground on costs and quality, we may see a resurrection of the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act drafted last year by Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Lamar Alexander (R–Tenn.)
- We’ve have been out front on the necessity for partnership with health care for some time. We continue in this focus and see a greater opportunity to address the social determinants of health, coupled with a savings and workforce frame.
- Congress will likely move from legislating the opioid epidemic to ensuring implementation of (HR6/P.L. 115-271) SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act. Over the coming months, the Alliance will continue to share opportunities within the act, especially the trauma-informed provisions.
Medicaid, Medicare, and the Affordable Care Act
- Whether a Medicare for all proposal will come forward is uncertain.
- ACA repeal and replace will likely not be a major focus over the next two years. House Democrats may try to bolster the program, but any such changes will require an approval by a 60-vote majority in the Senate.
- Within the ACA, the Prevention and Public Health Fund, will likely be vulnerable, as Congress may attempt to use it to address other budget shortfalls. The Prevention and Public Health Fund has been used to provide expanded and sustained national investments in prevention and public health to improve health outcomes and to enhance health care quality including improving linkages between the health care system and minority communities. The fund has invested in a broad range of evidence-based activities including community and clinical prevention initiatives; research, surveillance, and tracking; public health infrastructure; immunizations and screenings; tobacco prevention; and public health workforce and training.
Education and Workforce
Education was not a large conversation during the midterms, yet state and local results may be a large influencer of future education consequences. House Democrats, led by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.), the incoming House education committee chairman, may put pressures for accountability on the Department of Education. Additionally, education advocates are already speaking of oversight of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and whether or not states are implementing and achieving the law’s intent, particularly for minority students. State election results are incredibly important in the legislation, leadership, and strategies of education policies. All this said, unless there is a drastic change, education will not likely be a 2020 issue either.
- A split Congress will likely continue to face budgetary challenges, as both federal debt and the deficit continue to grow. Under current law, sequestration returns next year with $55 billion in cuts called for in nondefense discretionary funding. Addressing budget caps will be a potential hot button issue that Congress will need to address in 2019.
- Recall, the continuing passed with Health and Human Services appropriations funds the government through Dec. 7. A good test of how well Congress will work together will be striking a budget deal without significant delay and political posturing. If a budget deal is not reached before late winter, this will likely increase the possibility of a government shutdown in October.
As always, the Alliance will continue to find common ground with the new 116th Congress. And, while it is very difficult to anticipate what will happen in Washington D.C., it is clear that with the 2020 presidential election on the horizon and a divided Congress, we will have to work meticulously to ensure that both Congress and the administration prioritize protecting and promoting the health and well-being of all Americans.
Our approach must be both data driven and have a head and heart connection that brings lived experience forward. One such example of using data is new study from the Urban Institute citing social safety net programs cut American’s material hardship nearly in half. It finds that participation in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or public health insurance reduces the number of hardships low-income families with children face by 48 percent and the share who experience food insufficiency by 72 percent. If you have any stories of families using SNAP or TANF, please share them with the Alliance Office of Public Policy and Mobilization so we may marry them together and use them in examples on the Hill.
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