Health Care News

The 2018 Midterm Elections: What We Know Now and What it Means for Health Centers in the Year Ahead

After one of the more highly anticipated elections in quite some time, we finally know what the political landscape will look like in 2019: Democrats  are taking back the House of Representatives and Republicans will maintain control in the Senate. Democrats will hold at least 231 seats in the House (a gain of 36 seats) to Republicans 198 seats. At the time of writing, 6 seats were still undecided. In the Senate, Republicans netted two additional seats bringing them to 52 to the Democrats’ 47 (including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats), with one race still undecided. The Mississippi Senate election led to a runoff, which will take place on November 27.

While we await the results of the remaining elections, both parties are moving forward with electing leaders for their respective parties when the new Congress convenes in January. On November 14, Republicans in the House voted to elect Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to serve as Minority Leader following the retirement of Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was chosen to serve as Minority Whip. Senate Republicans also had some leadership changes given that Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) was termed out of his role as Majority Whip, though he will continue to serve a counsel to Senate Republican leadership. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will retain his position as Senate Majority Leader ,while Sen. John Thune (R-SD) was promoted to Senate Republican Whip.

House Democrats are expected to vote on their party leadership following the Thanksgiving holiday. Current Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is hoping to be reelected Speaker, while Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is once again seeking the position of Majority Leader. And in the Senate, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) will continue to serve as Senate Democratic Leader and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will remain as Senate Democratic Whip. We will continue to provide updates as the House elections and Committee leaders are decided.

As we look to the new Congress that will convene in January, one of the leading questions will be whether or not a divided Congress will be able to find agreement and consensus to move legislation forward. The historical bipartisan support of health centers will certainly be instrumental to navigating this challenge as we once again look to Congress to extend mandatory funding for health centers before it expires on September 30th.  There will also be over 100 new members in Congress, new Committee Chairs, and lots of new and existing Capitol Hill staff with whom to build relationships. That means many opportunities to educate and engage new health center champions on both sides of the aisle. We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we are well positioned for success as long as we continue to work together.

But before we turn entirely to 2019, we must first finish the work of the 115th Congress. When Congress returns from the Thanksgiving holiday, they will have a full agenda ahead of them before the end of the year. First, Congress needs to fund the remaining appropriations bills that are set to expire on December 7th. (This does not include the annual appropriation for health centers, which was passed back in September. Read more about that here.)  However, finding agreement on the remaining funding bills could prove challenging as the Administration continues to push for additional funding to build a wall on the southern border. In addition, a number of key federal programs need to be reauthorized, including the Farm Bill and the National Flood Insurance Program, among others.

We’ll have more to come on how the new Congress is shaping up and how you can engage with your new Members of Congress as we get closer to the new year, but in the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out to NACHC staff with any questions, or for help coordinating or supporting your advocacy efforts.

Further, if you’re looking for a deeper dive into the midterm elections results, check out NACHC’s Post-Election podcast with featured guests Amy Cunniffe and Kristi Martin!