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December 06, 2018

Congress looks ahead toward Democratic-led House and larger majority in the Senate

Democrats and Republicans immediately began organizing for the 116th Congress after the Nov. 6 midterm elections, which produced a Democratic majority in the House with a projected gain of 40 seats and added three seats to the Republican majority in the Senate.

The upcoming Congress will be the most diverse in history with 100 women serving in the House and 23 serving in the Senate. Voters also elected the first openly bisexual senator and two Muslim women and two Native American women to the House.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was chosen by the Democratic Caucus as its nominee for Speaker of the House, hopes to be elected in January to that position, which she held from 2007 to 2011. On Nov. 30, she unveiled the outline of the first bill the Democrats plan to introduce when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3. The bill, labeled H.R. 1, will include provisions to overhaul campaign finance laws, institute stronger ethics requirements for federal government officials, and amend the election laws to increase access to the polls and prohibit gerrymandering.

The Democrats are also expected to focus attention on reducing prescription drug prices, increasing federal investment in infrastructure, strengthening background checks to reduce gun violence, reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, and reforming immigration laws, including enacting a path to citizenship for those participating in the DACA program, which defers deportation for undocumented individuals who were brought to this country as children.

While increasing oversight over the Trump administration is a priority for the incoming leadership, House members also plan to address climate change and other environmental issues and to reinstate a select committee to address the climate crisis.

“Our opening day rule must assert a new Congress of transparency, bipartisanship and unity,” Pelosi said.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) was elected to serve as House minority leader for the 116th Congress.

In the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) will retain his leadership position after being unanimously re-elected by Senate Republicans on Nov. 14. He will continue to work with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who also was re-elected to his position.

Looking ahead to the next Congress, McConnell said the Senate is expected to continue confirming President Trump’s judicial nominees. The Senate also will be holding confirmation hearings for a new attorney general and to consider nominees to fill vacancies anticipated throughout the government.     

The 116th Congress also will see new chairs of both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is expected to take over the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is in line to chair the House Judiciary Committee.