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Election Updates for the Ocean and Environment Community

Updated: Dec 17, 2022

Last Updated: November 7, 2022

Tomorrow is Election Day and pundits are predicting record voter turnout, with more than 40 million early ballots already cast. Our offices will be closed tomorrow so our team can vote and volunteer at the polls. We encourage you to make sure your voice is heard; voting is one of the best ways to tell state and local governments that you care about our oceans.

How could this election impact ocean policy? While it’s impossible to predict election results with certainty, ears on the ground point to likely shifts in both Congress and relevant committees. Read on for the highlights.

Control of 118th Congress

Polling indicates that Republicans are likely to take the House in this election. Pundits are now predicting that Republicans will pick up between 12 and 30 House seats. This isn’t quite the tsunami that happened in 2010 — when Republicans picked up 63 House seats — but it’s enough of a red wave for Republican control.

Meanwhile, control of the Senate is very much in play. Margins will be tight for whichever party wins on November 8. The fight for the Senate looks like it will come down to four races: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada, and Arizona. It’s safe to assume that at least one of these races will be too close to call on election night, so the fate of the Senate is likely to remain under wraps for a few more weeks.

If one or both chambers are under Republican control come January, expect aggressive oversight investigations, potential cuts in government spending, and tax cut legislation. House Republicans are likely to hold hearings on the Biden Administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Justice Department's investigation into former President Donald Trump. Senate Republicans, on the other hand, are expected to set their sights on the debt limit and possibly changes to Medicare and Social Security.

Committee Leadership Changes: House

The House’s committees consider bills and oversee government agencies, programs, and activities within their jurisdictions. Seven House committee leaders are departing at the end of this Congress, opening up coveted seats on the following committees:

Homeland Security Committee

The Homeland Security Committee has jurisdiction over the U.S. Coast Guard with regards to their national security function and has held recent hearings on port and maritime security. The committee also considers the relationship between climate change, emergency and natural disaster preparedness, and national security.

Representative (Rep.) Bennie Thompson (D-MS-02) is likely to stay as the top Democrat on the committee, but it remains to be seen who will lead the Republican side. Republicans Dan Bishop (NC-09), Michael Guest (MS-03), Clay Higgins (LA-03), Scott Perry (PA-10), Dan Crenshaw (TX-02), and Mark Green (TN-07) are all in pursuit of the position.

Science, Space, and Technology Committee

The Science, Space, and Technology Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over several federal agencies, including the National Science Foundation (NSF), as well as authority over research and development activities at the Department of Energy (DOE), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other agencies.

Because Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX-30) is retiring and Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK-03) will likely stay on as Republican lead.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee (T&I)

T&I, the largest House committee by membership, has wide jurisdiction over our nation’s waters. The committee oversees issues related to the U.S. Coast Guard, flood control, waterway improvements, pollution, coastal zone management, water power, and more.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR-04) is retiring, opening up the committee’s top Democrat seat. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D.C.) and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA-02) are running for the position.

Committee Leadership Changes: Senate

The Senate’s committees monitor ongoing governmental operations, identify issues suitable for legislative review, gather and evaluate information, and recommend courses of action to the Senate. Their members consider hundreds of bills during more than 2,000 public hearings and meetings each Congress.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is expected to replace Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) as the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. Sen. Wicker will take over the top Republican spot on the Senate Armed Services Committee following Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) retirement.

And we could see history in the making on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) are poised to take over for retiring Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL). This change would mark the first time in the committee’s 155-year history that women sit in its two top seats. With Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) and Kay Granger (R-TX-12) expected to win reelection and retain their positions on the House Appropriations Committee, the Four Corners seats may be held entirely by women for the first time in U.S. history.

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