Analysis by Energy Workforce SVP Government Affairs Tim Tarpley
In week two of what seems to be the never-ending election of 2022, a few things have become clearer since last week’s newsletter. At the same time, quite a lot remains unknown.
First, as to what we do know. Barring some very unlikely scenarios (like a party flip) the Senate will remain in Democrat control. Both the Arizona and Nevada Senate races have been called for the Democrats, which means that they will have at least 50 seats in the Senate — enough to ensure they retain control. The Georgia Senate race will go into a runoff that will be decided in December and this race will really only matter as to deciding how much of a majority the Democrats will have in the chamber.
While having 51 seats over 50 does matter should they be successful in Georgia, giving Democrats some structural and procedural advantages, for energy policy purposes the outcome probably doesn’t matter as much.
As for our issues, what does a 50 or 51 seat Democratic-majority Senate mean? Well, the first thing we can be fairly certain of is leadership in the Senate will stay stable. Sen. Chuck Schumer appears poised to retain his role as majority leader. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) will likely become Majority Whip, Assistant Leader Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), and DPCC Chair Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are unlikely to be challenged and the leading committee chairs Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) will seek to maintain their positions.
Of particular importance to us is that Sen. Manchin is expected to retain his role as chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, where we can expect he will continue to push for permitting reform. To be successful in clearing a (likely) Republican House, this effort must be bipartisan, which means that significant changes from the measure Sen. Manchin tried unsuccessfully to pass this year will have to occur. A 50 or 51 vote Senate also means that the President will have close margins for any additional appointments he may need to make to his cabinet. Sen. Manchin and other moderates in the Senate will continue to be key votes for any further appointments.
As for the situation in the House, the outlook is much murkier. As of writing this article, Republicans have won 217 of the 218 seats they need to retake the majority in the House. Given the outlook for the remaining races that have yet to be called, it is likely, but not guaranteed that Republicans will retake the House with a 2-5 seat margin. This margin is very slim and will have significant effects on the House’s ability to push back on many of the Administration actions.
Leadership in the House is still far from certain. Tuesday afternoon, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) defeated Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ-5) in a caucus vote for Speaker by 188-31. This means that he will then move to a floor vote in January to be confirmed as speaker. The 31 defections however could become important if they are unwilling to back McCarthy on the floor. If they don’t come over to McCarthy, he will be left with no choice but to cut a deal with the Freedom Caucus holdouts or look for Democratic votes. Neither option is ideal for McCarthy or his ability to lead the caucus going into next year. We will certainly hear more about this as we move closer to January, with many details still to come.
Going further down the expected leadership of the House majority, assuming no surprises or additional curveballs, current Republican Whip Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA-1) is expected to become Majority Leader, and Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21) is expected to remain in her role as GOP Conference Chair. Three members are competing for majority whip — Rep. Drew Ferguson (R-GA-3), currently the Chief Deputy Whip; Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN-3), currently chair of the Republican Study Committee; and Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN-6), currently chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), with Rep. Emmer coming out ahead. Committee chairmanships will not be settled until later next month, additional details will begin to become clear as soon as the leadership slate is settled. On the Democrat side, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) is expected to become minority leader if she decides to run.
What can we expect from the House in terms of energy issues? A House with such low margins of power center will come from its oversight role. We can expect strong pushback on the Biden Administration’s energy regulatory agenda. Since legislative avenues will be difficult if not impossible for the Administration given the close margin in the Senate and the likely Republican controlled House, we can expect most actions from the Administration to come in the form of regulations.
The House will likely be unable to stop many of these regulatory actions with a disapproval resolution or through appropriation tactics, so we can expect oversight to slow the regulatory process but not stop it entirely. The House Republican majority will end up including many new members from New York and California in areas that are not traditional energy producing areas, so much time will need to be spent educating these new members on our issues. We can expect additional clarity in the coming days and by next week we should have a much clearer picture of where things stand.
For additional analysis and details on the impact of the election on the energy services and technology sector, join the Government Affairs Committee and experts from FTI Consulting, Rice University’s Baker Institute and Akin Gump on November 17 for a virtual briefing.
Tim Tarpley, SVP Government Affairs & Counsel, analyzes federal policy for the Energy Workforce & Technology Council. Click here to subscribe to the Energy Workforce newsletter, which highlights sector-specific issues, best practices, activities and more.