116th Congressional Overview

By Doug MacGillivray posted 01-10-2019 09:54

The 116th Congress gaveled in on January 3, with dozens of new Representatives and a handful of new Senators taking their oaths of office to begin work for the next two years. A number of key legislative issues need to be tackled in this new era of divided government. It is anyone’s guess how effective this Congress will be, but APGA members should be aware that the 116th will likely impact them in one way or another.

Voters sent a new House and Senate to Washington in 2018. In the Senate, the Republican majority was strengthened to 53, and the Democrat minority sits at 45 with two independent Senators caucusing with them. The House flipped party control as Democrats won 235 seats in the midterm elections. Republicans hold 199 seats (Note: the results of the NC-09 election have not been certified). This results in a divided government – the executive branch and legislative branch are not wholly controlled by the same party. Divided government can make the legislative process somewhat more cumbersome than it already is.

In this Congress, a host of high-profile issues will be debated. The government shutdown and immigration continue to dominate the policy landscape for the time being. No one knows how or when this will end. This will eventually roll into the annual appropriations process, which begins with the submission of the President’s budget and subsequent congressional individual appropriations legislation. APGA will continue to advocate for our legislative priorities in that process.

The other major must-pass legislation on the horizon is the debt limit. The debt limit is the statutory limit of which the federal government can borrow money. Debt increases any time the government operates with a budget deficit, which happens nearly every year. Congress opted to suspend the debt ceiling until March 2. This will almost certainly need to be raised again this year. The debt limit debate is always hotly contested, and with Congress split it will likely take up plenty of floor time.

For APGA members, the major deadline this year is the reauthorization of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA). PHMSA oversees pipeline safety and issues guidance and regulations, something many APGA members are likely very familiar with. PHMSA reauthorization typically involves targeted changes to authorities and different regulations. APGA expects to be heavily engaged in this debate and encourages member engagement on this key policy area.

Other energy issues are sure to come up. House Democrats have signaled that they will look into various issues related to climate change. Both parties have noted their desire to work towards an infrastructure bill. Tax issues relating to energy could arise. And the specter of a broad energy bill has again been brought up. APGA will look to be involved in all of these important legislative debates as they progress.

For questions on this article, please contact Doug MacGillivray of APGA staff by phone at 202-464-2742 or by email at dmacgillivray@apga.org.