It’s been more than three weeks since Election Day but there are still a handful of congressional races that either remain to be called or are facing a runoff. In the Senate, the current partisan breakdown is 50-48, Republican-Democrat. Two Senate races, in the State of Georgia, are headed to a runoff which will be held on January 5th. In the House of Representatives, the current breakdown is 222-208, Democrat-Republican. Five House races remain undecided, with four of them potentially impacting the Democrat’s balance of power. (The 5th Congressional District in Louisiana faces a Republican v. Republican runoff in December that will not change the balance of power). Further, Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA-2) will, temporarily, decrease the Democrats numbers when he joins the incoming Biden Administration, as expected.
All of this impacts what happens in Congress and, by extension, what happens to golf. Control of Congress, and by how much of a margin, decides the control of committees, which in turn decides their agenda. This in turn helps decide which bills will ultimately pass each house and, possibly, make it to the President’s desk for signature. Golf gets impacted every step of the way. So your government affairs team plays close attention to who controls Congress. In the Senate, control will be decided by the Georgia runoff races in January. Incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (both Republican) face a January 5th runoff because neither secured a majority of the state’s votes on election day. Under the Georgia’s rules, this forces the top two vote-getters in each race to a runoff election. Perdue and Loeffler will run against Jon Ossoff, a documentary filmmaker, and Raphael Warnock, the Senior Pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, respectively. If both Democrats prevail, the Senate would be tied 50-50 and Vice-President Harris would be the tie-breaking vote, under the Constitution. The last time there was a 50-50 Senate was in January of 2001. For 17 days, Democrats controlled the Senate with then Vice-President Gore sitting as the tie-breaking vote until January 20, 2001, when Republican George W. Bush was sworn in as President and Dick Cheney was sworn in as Vice-President. Democrats chaired Senate committees for that short time and then the Republicans took over. But the number of Democrats and Republicans on each committee remained equal. This could be a template for how power could be shared if Democrats win both Senate seats. If they come up short by one or both, expect the Republicans to lead the Senate, and its committees, albeit by a small margin.
Democratic leadership of the House of Representatives will be also held by a small margin. They have 222 votes, which is only 4 votes above the 218 majority necessary to control the House. As noted above, they can only increase this number by a maximum of 4 seats. To do, they would have to sweep undecided races in the states of California, Iowa and New York. That is not a sure thing. They could also lose each one. Prior to election day, Democrats held 232 seats (with 5 seats vacant). So no matter what, they are facing reduced ranks. While they will still be in the majority and control all committees, they will do so with a greater number of Republicans in 2021. Expect that to be reflected in terms of how many Republicans are added to House committees, which will in turn impact those committees’ agendas. This will also impact what bills the Democratic leadership decides to send to the House floor.
What does this mean for golf? First, it is important to note that the thin margins in the House and Senate are the results of an election with the highest voter turnout since 1908. So, the people have spoken and have indicated they want a check on power. The result is that a Democratic President in the White House could very likely have to face a Republican-controlled Senate when trying to make appointments or pass legislation. That same Republican Senate could refuse to work with the Democrats in the House, who would be facing their own concerns in keeping progressive and centrist members on the same page. Does all of this lead to gridlock? Perhaps, but prior years of divided government show where there could be areas of compromise, especially in the first few months of a Biden Administration. A stimulus bill to help the economy during the pandemic could happen in early 2021. The need is clearly there. If it does, GCSAA will continue to lobby for greater access to the vital Paycheck Protection Program, including for private golf courses. Also, the government must pass 12 spending bills each year to keep its “doors open”. Must-pass spending bills provide an opportunity to help golf (for example, by ensuring more H-2B visa workers for golf and others). They also can cause mischief (Democrats could try to limit the “Navigable Waters Protection Rule”, the successor to WOTUS, by defunding it). GCSAA will continue to fight to sure golf’s voice is being heard.