The 2022 mid-terms came and went on Tuesday, Nov. 8, and unfortunately, the results are still not yet final for control of either of the House or the Senate in the 118th Congress.
Going into this election, pundits were beginning to predict that we could see a massive wave election like in 1994 and 2010 when the party opposite of a first-term sitting president makes significant gains to control both the House and the Senate. Well, that’s not exactly what happened on Tuesday. It is still very possible that Republicans take control of the House and the Senate but with a much smaller margin than what we would consider a “wave” election.
While the electorate seemed ready to elect Republicans based on a pro-economy and anti-crime message, it seems that concerns over the quality of the candidates, election deniers, and reproductive rights played a much larger part of these elections than anticipated.
Democrats are happy that their losses were mitigated and optimistic their message will still resonate going into 2024. Republicans remain optimistic about their populist message and ability to control both chambers for the next two years, but some finger-pointing has begun within the party.
A Republican primary that will likely include both President Trump and Governor DeSantis looms large for control of the party and messaging for 2024. But for this article, let’s focus on the actual elections and how this impacts the landscape industry.
Three states remain in limbo to determine control of the Senate – Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada. Whichever party wins two of those three will gain control of the Senate. Currently, Arizona is leaning towards incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (R-AZ). In Nevada, Republican newcomer Adam Laxalt is leading incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).
If things stay like this, then it all comes down to Georgia in a special runoff on Dec. 6 (sound familiar?). In Georgia, Sen. Warnock (D-GA) is leading challenger Herschel Walker by more than 40,000 votes but did not reach 50 percent, which requires a runoff. The runoff will certainly be a toss-up and it is unclear which party will get out their vote on Dec. 6. It is noteworthy that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp won his reelection by a significant margin and with Kemp not on the ticket on Dec. 6 will that drag down Walker?
If Republicans win, we can see two years of obstruction by Mitch McConnell over any Biden priorities, including judicial nominations. If Democrats win, we can see another two years of not much being accomplished with such a narrow majority and Sen. Manchin’s moderate reputation. There may be some movement on entitlement programs like social security and Medicare, but this Senate is likely not going to tackle anything significant.
Regardless of who gains control of the Senate, we don’t see too much difference on our key issues going into the next Congress.
Farm Bill: A Republican-controlled Senate would be a better scenario for our Farm Bill priorities. Sen. Boozeman (R-AK) will have control and has supported our initiatives to reform FIFRA and fix preemption for years. Unfortunately, even with Republican control Democratic lead on the Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), wields significant power during negotiations and has historically opposed our objectives. Conflating the issue is that the Agriculture Committee lacks Democratic members that are sympathetic to our concerns on preemption, and we will need two or three Democrats to endorse our efforts, which we are currently working towards.
H-2B: In a Republican or Democratic-controlled Senate, we continue to have issues with the Judiciary Committee. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will maintain control for the Democrats, while Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is expected to resume control for the Republicans. These two form what I affectionately refer to as an “unholy alliance.”
Both are strong opponents of the program and that makes it very difficult for us to enact significant reforms, BUT both are at the table during our current negotiations, and I remain optimistic there is some movement between both offices. On the positive side, we expect Sen. Susan Collins to take control of the powerful Appropriations Committee for Republicans and she has been a champion on H-2B for us, while Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) will take control for the Democrats, and she has historically not been a publicly opposed to reforms. This should strengthen our ability to obtain riders in the annual appropriations process to provide additional visas, hopefully through a returning workers exception for FY 24.
There are still approximately 30 seats that have not been decided yet, but the projections are that the Republicans will take control with a very narrow margin of 221 to 214. 218 is a majority, so in this scenario, Republicans will only have a 3-vote majority, which is razor-thin.
Small majorities make it very difficult for the majority party to accomplish much. The Republican party has several factions that will need to be appeased and the boisterous Freedom Caucus will wield even more power, understanding they have the ability to block even Republican-backed initiatives. There is even some speculation that Minority Leader McCarthy will have competition to become the next speaker and whoever becomes speaker will have to broker deals with Democrats at times to pass legislation.
Republicans in control of the House is good for NALP’s two key issues going into this Congress.
Farm Bill: A Republican-controlled House changes the dynamics of the 2023 Farm Bill. Rep. Glen Thompson (R-PA), the current ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee will now take the gavel and lead the negotiations moving forward.
The Republicans will have a majority on the committee and can pass the legislation along strict partisan lines. That is not how the process is preferred, but this is what occurred during the last Farm Bill and the pesticide preemption language was included in the House version of the Farm Bill, which we anticipate to move before the Senate.
H-2B: For H-2B, Republican control is a mixed bag. The Freedom Caucus, which will wield significant power, predominantly opposes guest worker programs, like H-2B. Additionally, the Republican Chair of the Judiciary Committee Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) has fundamentally opposed the program as a leader of the Freedom Caucus.
The Judiciary Committee has original jurisdiction over H-2B, but typically, our work gets done through the Appropriations process with Judiciary Committee approval. The dynamics on the Appropriations Committee become much more favorable under Republican leadership. For starters, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) will no longer be the Chair which removes a significant impediment to our efforts. Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) will become the Chair and she has been sympathetic to H-2B reform in the past. BUT most importantly, Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) will assume a powerful position on the Appropriations Committee and will look towards a returning worker exemption in the annual appropriations process this summer. Additionally, Rep. Harris is a member of the Freedom Caucus and will work hard to have them in more of a neutral position if H-2B reform is possible.
Tuesday’s elections mark the end of one Congress and the beginning of another. As you can see there are opportunities ahead for NALP, but nothing will be easy. A lot is still left to happen in the coming days and on Dec. 6, but we believe we are well positioned either way to make significant gains on H-2B and our Farm Bill priorities. We will provide an in-depth analysis of party leadership and Committee assignments as this process moves forward in December and January.
Noteworthy Wins for NALP
It is always important that champions for NALP issues remain in Congress, here are some good stats on members that won reelection:
- Of the 35 Senators that signed onto a key H-2B letter in February – 9 won reelection, 2 are pending, 2 retired and the remaining 22 were not up for reelection.
- Of the 94 representatives that are co-sponsors of H.R. 3897, the Returning Worker Exception Act of 2021 – 71 won reelection, 10 lost and 13 retired.
- Noteworthy that Reps. Cuellar (D-TX) and Spanberger (D-VA) survived very tough elections!
- Lastly, 100 percent of members that NALP provided a PAC contribution in 2022 will be back in the 118th Congress!