The next 90 days are critical.
Taking time off for the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays? Most do, but some government relations professionals will be hard at work identifying and influencing the next 116th Congress. This term will start January 3, 2019 and will run for two years. Government relations professionals will have to get to work in a very constricted but busy schedule starting the day after the national elections, November 7th (elections on the 6th) thru the end of December. Knowing the right people to contact at the right time and right place in this combined period where the “old” 115th Congress and yet to be sworn in new Members and initial top staff will be in Washington, DC together. Critical decisions on leadership will be made and opportunity to plan for successful outcomes on policy, perhaps for the next two years, will be developed.
Who will be the next Speaker? Who will be the next Chairman of key Committees and Subcommittees? Who will fill the vacancies for membership on key Committees that will decide the Fiscal Year 2020 Federal budget or a host of pending and key legislation in 2019(especially expiring authorization legislation)? How to contact the new members and their Chief of staffs who are operating in various locations in the city and open to visits and discussions? Is there an opportunity to pass amendments to legislation in the remaining days in session for the 115th(a late night passage of priority issues, with leadership approval, can and is always an option…) These and other questions are being worked on and decided now, before this tumultuous 60-90 day period coming up.
The “casualty list” for this 115th Congress keeps growing and growing As of September, 2018, there were,
- 23 Democratic House Members and 50 GOP members retiring-one of the largest retirement list in decades;
- 6 GOP Senate retirements and 1 Democrat resignation;
- 6 key GOP leaders retiring including the Speaker, Chairmen of the House Appropriations, Foreign Affairs,
- Judiciary, Transportation and Infrastructure and Science, Space&Technology Committees and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
These top Members leaving open a whole new realm of opportunity for new policies, new staffs and new legislation that can be supported in 2019.
Depending on the results of the elections, organizing the 116th Congress will be determined in this two month period by the Majority party, now controlled in very slim margins by the Republicans. The US Senate has a 2 vote difference with the GOP at 51, including the newest Senator appointed by the AZ Governor, former Sen.Kyl (R-AZ)to fill the seat vacated by the death of the late Sen. McCain(R-AZ), and the Democrats (with 2 Independents organizing with them)at 49. 34 Senate seats are up for election this November. The US House has a similar slim margin with the GOP at 236, Democrats 193, with 6 vacancies as of this publication. The margin is about 23-25 seats with all 435 House members up for election. As soon as the election results crystalize(morning of the 7th of November, government relations professional have been hard at work strategizing who will move up…who will move out of power and who are the key staffs that need to be influenced in 2019.
Some of the key questions for government relations professionals or for those seeking to develop legislative and policy objectives for 2019-2021 and beyond include the following for the November-December, 2018 timeframe:
- Do you know how to reach the “movers and shakers” within the House Republican Conference and the House
- Democratic Caucus which will decide who becomes leaders in the Committees?
- Have you reviewed the present (2018) membership of key committees that will decide funding or authorizing legislation to determine who is staying and who is moving to other committees?
- Have you listed the key staffs for members that “might” become leaders and engage with them on your issues knowing that they will be key to success?
- Have you developed a list of priorities to review with Members and their staffs as they set their agendas for 2019?
During this November, both parties take new members to “retreats” outside Washington, DC for “training” and for lectures on issues and how to manage their offices in the 116th Congress. One key group that assists in these programs is the Congressional Management Foundation, as well as the leaders in both parties.
In addition, in the weeks before Christmas, new members and their new chiefs of staff select their offices on Capitol Hill and begin their process for interviewing their staffs(legislative and administrative) as well as lobbying their colleagues in the Congress(and leaders) for the Committee assignments their will have for 2019-2021.
Being prepared for the next two year Congress is a difficult task for many but a crucial activity for those who have the experience and know the process. It is planned for every two years and as we approach the critical year of 2020 for national presidential elections and another round of Congressional elections, this upcoming organizing period in November and December,2018 will have lasting effects on policy and legislation, especially to meet the early presentations of the State of the Union(February) by the President to Congress, the FY2020 federal budget justifications to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees and much more….are you ready?