The actions and activities of Congress not only impact the American people and corporations, but they also can affect the operations and assistance not-for-profit associations are eligible to receive. Even if your association doesn’t have a formal advocacy program (we’ll address the importance of that in a future article), there are issues and policies transforming daily that could impact your association, profession, or industry.
Smithbucklin’s robust group of Government Relations (GR) professionals is comprised of advocacy experts who cover a wide range of policy disciplines. The team provides clients with specialized advocacy efforts on federal, state, and local levels to influence issues that matter most to association members, including monitoring and influencing proposed legislation and regulations that may impact members, managing political action committees, and implementing grassroots advocacy programs that enable members to effectively communicate the organization’s message to policymakers.
Here are five observations our Government Relations experts shared about the new Congress.
Why it matters
The 118th Congress, which began in early January 2023 and will run through 2024, will have a significant influence on associations’ advocacy efforts. This particular group is making history for a variety of reasons, including diversifying House leadership, setting historically close majorities, and facing monumental policy decisions that will shape the country’s landscape. These five facts are essential to understanding the potential impact this new Congress will have throughout the next two years.
The 118th Congress is the most diverse in history.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) is the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress, while Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the first female Senate pro tempore. For the first time, the four leaders of the Appropriations Committees are all women. Representation of racial and ethnic groups in the House is now on par with their share of the total U.S. population, and 133 current Senators and Representatives identify as either Black, Hispanic, Asian American, American Indian, and/or Alaskan Native – a number that has nearly doubled since the 108th Congress (2003-2005).
This is a brand new generation of house leadership.
For the first time in over two decades, House Democrats have an entirely new leadership team, while Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the new House Speaker until 2025. Additionally, the 74 new freshman members in the 118th Congress bring about the possibility to form new leadership relationships and dynamics, while having the potential to reshape how legislation is executed in Congress. As for associations, these changing member demographics are motivating association GR teams to further develop their strategies for maximum impact.
A record-setting vote resulted in slim majorities for both the House and the Senate.
As part of Rep. McCarthy’s efforts to secure his post as House Speaker, he made a concession to the conservative wing of the Republican House conference to lower the threshold of votes needed for a Motion to vacate the chair. This concession enables just one member to trigger a mandatory vote by the full House chamber to potentially name a new Speaker.
The Capitol building and offices are open to the public for the first time in three years.
Beginning in 2023, both the Senate and House are now open to all for visits to congressional offices. This enables any association government affairs team member, member, or volunteer leader to schedule important in-person meetings with Congressional offices.
Appropriation bills will soon be in the works.
The federal government is currently funded through September 2023. President Biden is expected to release his proposed budget on March 9, which will begin Fiscal Year 2024 negotiations with the House and the Senate. Congress will then follow the budget release with drafted appropriation bills, created through committee negotiations on federal funding. This process is expected to stretch into the summer and conclude in the fall.
What to expect moving forward
Below are a few topics you can expect the 118th Congress to address:
- Congressional investigations
- The Farm Bill
- Judicial nominations
- Debt ceiling negotiations
The Farm Bill, which serves as a guideline for government expenditure, has a direct impact on how federal dollars are spent each year. Stakeholders must be sure to communicate with Congress to communicate their needs regarding the Farm Bill.
As volunteer leaders and executive directors, being aware that debt ceiling negotiations may result in federal funding increasing, decreasing, and/or remaining at current levels is crucial. In turn, this could affect an association’s federal assistance.
Members of Congress depend on subject matter experts, like you and your members, to create effective legislation that helps their constituents. Your knowledge of Congress and the legislative process can help your association plan ahead, take action, and be prepared for change.
The authors of this article are members of the Smithbucklin Government Relations and Corporate Marketing teams.