November 2014


Mid-term Elections and RSVP


The Sheridan Group, a consultant for Voices of National Service (of which NARSVPD is a member) prepared the following information in regards to the 2014 Midterm Elections. 

Regardless of outcome, Tuesday's mid-term elections little will change dramatically on Capitol Hill next year. The reality is two things will be true on November 5th:   

  1. Congress will still be deadlocked; and                                                                           

  2. The 2016 Presidential campaign will begin in earnest.  

Even with a Republican takeover of the Senate a 60 vote majority is not out of reach for either party. Regardless of who controls the gavel in both chambers, there will likely be slim majority/minority splits in the House and Senate, leaving ample opportunity for well-positioned organizations and causes to implement smart strategies and push policy goals forward.   


The Current Landscape  

For the past four years Republicans have controlled the House of Representatives and since 2007 Democrats have held the majority in the Senate. There are three potential outcomes of Tuesday's mid-term election:  

  1. The Senate remains in Democratic control;the House remains in Republican control.  

      2.    The Senate flips to Republican control; the House remains in Republican   



      3.  Control is split evenly at 50/50in the Senate;the House remains in Republican control. Under this scenario, Vice President Biden would be forced to  execute his  often-overlooked role as President of the Senate. The Vice  President would be responsible for breaking tied votes in that chamber, giving   Democrats a 1 vote advantage and keeping chairmanships in Democratic hands.   

            According to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, Republicans are  expected to add between 2 and10 seats to their ranks in the House. In the  Senate, where Democrats currently hold a 55-45 majority, Republicans need to  gain 6 seats to take control. Rothenberg projects that the GOP will win back  between 5 and 8 seats in the upper chamber on Tuesday. While this outcome is  far from guaranteed, we should be prepared to see a change of leadership in the  Senate next Congress.


Note that election laws in two key states (Georgia and Louisiana) require candidates to earn a plurality of votes (>50%) on Election Day to avoid a runoff. Because of this, we may not know which party holds the balance of power in the Senate until after these expected runoff elections in December or January.   



Elections are meaningful and impactful, but in the case of this year's midterms, they will not significantly change how we approach federal advocacy as we describe below. As you watch the results roll in Tuesday evening, keep in mind a few key takeaways:   

Slim Majorities Mean Crossover Votes Will Be Key.   


Looking forward, expected slim majorities mean that only a few crossover votes will be needed in the Senate to get things done; any legislative strategy will require advocates to focus on moving 10 or fewer senators to the other side. Bipartisanship will continue to be the name of the game for the next two years. The work you have put in to building champions - particularly moderate champions - on both sides of the aisle will prove to be extremely valuable and these efforts should continue. Given these dynamics and Senate filibuster rules, 60 votes will remain the required threshold for moving legislation forward in the Senate. In addition to bipartisan champion building, cultivating and activating grassroots assets will be critically important to success in the coming two years. For many social causes and issues, grassroots and grasstops assets are the most powerful antidote to well-resourced opponents.  


Elections Have Consequences: Omni or CR for FY15.  


The federal government is currently operating under a short-term, 2 ½ month continuing resolution (CR) that funds the government at FY14 levels through December 11th.  

Regardless of election outcomes, when Congress reconvenes after the election it will need to pass a spending bill by December 11th in order to keep the federal government open. Soon, congressional leaders will have to decide whether to push forward another continuing resolution at present funding levels, work to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that sets new funding levels negotiated between the House and Senate for FY15, or possibly create some combination of the two. The makeup of the next Congress will help to shape what is possible as FY15 nears final negotiations.   


Just a few months ago, most Washington experts believed Congress would  pass a yearlong continuing resolution in order to avoid a government shutdown and to focus on other end of-year priorities during their last months in the current Congress. But political winds shift frequently and suddenly in Washington, particularly around elections. In recent days, both Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) have signaled their intention to pass an omnibus in the weeks following the election.   


Expect Committee Changes.  


The biggest change we expect to come with a new Congress is shifting committee leadership in both the House and Senate. While a Republican Senate would result in the greatest shakeup on this front, there is expected to be some significant committee movement no matter the outcome. With the retirement of longstanding elected officials, a vacuum will be created from the absence of issue-specific champions and powerful chairs. This is not a surprise; we have anticipated and planned for these champions for months. Still, the strongest champions take years to cultivate, and the new environment will require an intense focus on building anew.


Focus on 2016 Presidential Election.  

Almost immediately following these midterm elections, there will be a distinct shift in focus to the 2016 presidential elections. Members of Congress, the media, and other key stakeholders will view everything through the lens of presidential election politics. We strongly recommend packaging policy proposals and tailoring messaging in a way that relates to this national discourse. For 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations interested in engaging more directly in the presidential elections, The Sheridan Group is happy to discuss the best strategies for success and outline more specifically what this type of work may consist of.  




As the popular WWII poster states, "Keep Calm and Carry On". This is the message from the consultant to the National Service Community.   With a divided government in place and with slimmer margins expected between the majority and minority, the conventional wisdom will be that little can be accomplished in Congress. This is simply not true. Successes earned over this past year, even if incremental, show the value of these efforts and the potential for results and change in a divided Congress. As we saw throughout this current Congress, Voices has been very successful building bipartisan support for CNCS, adding additional members to the National Service Caucus and successfully advocating for higher Appropriations Member requests in both the House and the Senate.  The key to these successes lies in careful attention to bipartisanship and strategic, sustained engagement with champions and future champions. We will provide additional details on the results and overview of the new 114thCongressfollowing the elections. Remember to vote and encourage all of your clients, donors, supporters and staff to turn out. Midterm elections swing with turn-out.   


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