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Opportunity or Gridlock

By Sylvie Legere

Election season is over! The Democrats gained control of the House and the Republicans maintained their Senate Majority. There was a record number of women elected in public office, 100 women will be in Congress. The 2019 Congress will welcome 77 veterans, the first Muslim, first Native-Americans, and first Korean-American women. Tennessee elected the first woman Senator, South Dakota the first woman Governor. Here’s a summary of the historic wins of the midterms and a detailed analysis on Ballotpedia.

What to make it of? Women influenced the outcome of election (here’s an analysis), and the results seem to show that Americans want the two political parties to work together on policies that impact their lives.

The markets’ reaction to the midterms was especially on an uptick for health insurance and marijuana companies based on the results of ballot initiatives.

In the House, both political parties will have leadership elections for the Speaker of the House, leaders of the majority and minority, whip, and conference leaders. Democrat leaders will also take the helm of each of the Committee chairmanships, and the committees staff will swap to be 1/3rd Republican and 2/3rds Democrat. To refresh your understand of how the House functions have a look at The Policy Circle briefs on the House and the Senate.

Gridlock or Opportunity?

Any spending bills that require budget appropriation have to be initiated from the House before it goes to the Senate. So what will the legislative agenda look like in 2019?

Having 2020 in mind, the Democrat Speaker of the House may want to demonstrate capacity for accomplishments. A divided Congress is an opportunity for the House of Representatives to focus on non-partisan initiatives that will get the support of the President and impact Americans’ lives.

So what might they focus on?  Here are some examples – you can find more details in this Politico article:

  • Infrastructure seeking large private investments or large government funded projects.
  • Prescribed-Drug Price Control
  • A resolution on DACA
  • Trade, the new US-Canada-Mexico deal is expected to come up for a vote in Congress in early 2019, the updated agreement includes provisions to raise wages in Mexico and boost manufacturing in the U.S.
  • Opportunity Agenda enacting policies that boost US exportation of oil and gas, investment in distressed communities, criminal justice reform.

5 Questions to ask our lawmakers

Demands for transparency and accountability, and representing everyday Americans are the key themes of this post election. Here’s my challenge to all of us.  Whenever we have an opportunity to interact with a lawmaker or engage in a policy discussion, let’s ask five questions:

  1. What is the goal of the legislation relative to other legislations? (is there something already in the book on this issue)
  2. Who are the stakeholders involved in shaping the legislation, and who will be impacted by the legislation (small/big businesses, families, future generations, vulnerable members of our society)?
  3. How will the outcome be measured, and what will happen to the legislation if it does not have the intended outcome? (what gets measured gets done, and let’s stop doing what does not work)
  4. How much will it cost to implement and track? Who will be held accountable for implementation, monitoring and reporting.
  5. Nature follows the path of least resistance.  What is the impact of the policy on people’s self-responsibility, and creativity?

There are other questions such as “does the policy respect the constitutional rights of the states”.  But these 5 points are probably a good start to engage in a productive dialog and craft productive legislation.