Republicans Sweep into Senate Majority - "Lame Duck" Session Underway

The GOP will hold, at a minimum, a 53-seat majority in the U.S. Senate when the 114th Congress is seated in January 2015. The majority could grow to 54 in the coming weeks, as incumbent Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu will face a runoff election in December.
Republicans successfully picked up a total of eight Senate seats, currently held by Democrats, in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia. They also retained seats in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky.

In the House of Representatives, as predicted, Republicans solidified their position by adding more than a dozen seats to their current majority, giving Republicans their largest majority in the House since President Herbert Hoover was in office.  

Last week, Congress reconvened and addressed several issues right away, the first order of business being the election of leadership positions.  

In the House, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), were chosen for two-year terms. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected to serve another two year term as well. In the Senate, Republicans elected Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Majority Leader, and Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) will be the Minority Leader.
In addition to the leader positions, the House committee chair appointments were recently announced. There are a few committees that have a direct impact on IEC members. The key chair appointments are:

  • Education & Workforce – Rep. John Kline (R-MN)
  • Energy & Commerce – Rep. Fred Upton (R-MN)
  • Science, Space, and Technology – Lamar Smith (R-TX)
  • Small Business – Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
  • Ways & Means – Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI)

Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell recently previewed their plans for 2015. They want to score victories early in 2015 to show voters that Congress can function, and they intend to start with a few of the dozens of bills passed by the GOP-led House that went nowhere under the Democrat-controlled Senate. Those included removing the Affordable Care Act's definition of a 30-hour work week as full-time employment, along with a measure to boost the number of charter schools, both of which could gain  Democratic support. Also at the top of the list are trade and tax bills.

However, before the calendar turns to 2015, Congress still has about 20 working days in 2014 during its “lame duck” session. While several issues have potential to be taken up, in all probability the only real measure the Congress will pass is a spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of its fiscal year. Currently, the government is only funded through December 11. Also, while some have speculated that the Republicans may pass only another short term spending bill to gain additional leverage next year, Republican leaders have indicated they do not intend to implement this strategy. 

State Races
While much of the coverage focused on congressional results, Republicans also did well at the state level, with key wins in:

  • Florida - Rick Scott
  • Georgia - Nathan Deal
  • Illinois - Bruce Rauner
  • Maryland - Larry Hogan
  • Massachusetts - Charlie Baker
  • Ohio - John Kasich
  • Texas - Greg Abbott
  • Wisconsin - Scott Walker

In states that increased spending and raised taxes on upper-income individuals and small business taxpayers, many of the governors and tax proponents lost. On the other course, in states that lowered taxes on income and businesses, all of the governors were reelected and saw their majorities in the legislature increase.

IEC will continue to monitor all of the events of the "lame duck" session and keep members informed of the latest relevant developments.