NAPLES, Fla.—The U.S. House of Representatives is likely to see some changes in midterm elections this fall, which could have repercussions for the polyurethanes industry, said Stephanie Silverman, CEO of Venn Strategies L.L.C.
Silverman outlined the current state of Washington politics heading into midterms during her presentation "Inside the Beltway: Policy, Politics and Perspectives from D.C." at the 2018 Polyurethane Manufacturers Association annual meeting on May 8 in Naples.
"I'm going to tell you that in 33 years of doing this, I have never seen some of the things that I'm seeing right now, but they make for interesting speeches," said Silverman, a lobbyist who represents mostly mid-size companies.
As the midterm cycle gears up, the elections will steal some of the momentum from policymaking in D.C., Silverman said. With a two-year cycle, the most active time for legislation and policy comes in the six months immediately after an election. After that point, the focus often turns to messaging.
After passing a budget bill in February, the next bill that could be major legislation for Congress is a government funding bill to be passed Sept. 30, "to keep the lights on, basically, for a few months," she said.
"That could be a big piece of legislation, because if you know something is going to get done, you're going to want to try to tag on other stuff to it," Silverman said.
Beyond that bill and some smaller measures, other major legislation is not likely to be finished for the rest of 2018, she said.
"So what is Congress doing? They're messaging," she said. "They're working on pieces of legislation that they know are not likely to get done and wrapped up in a bow, but they can go home and tap some advances as part of their bona fides to get re-elected."
Silverman said Republicans in the House of Representatives are struggling, looking to pass legislation regarding the opioid epidemic or a balanced budget, but division within the community itself is complicating the situation.
"This, by the way, is one of the signs that the Republican party is in particular trouble, because there's huge fissures within the party," she said.
Silverman said one area where Republicans "kind of got a big hit" this year was with tax reform. Though the response hasn't been as strong as they might have liked, they liked the messaging in the marketplace after the bill was passed. House Republicans could look to do more work on tax reform to continue that message into midterms.
"They probably won't get a lot, but again, it's a messaging play. It's not really intended to legislate," she said.
Lame duck session
Regardless of how much Congress shifts in the midterm, more action could happen during the lame duck session, or the period of time between the results of the election and the starting date of new congress members, she said.
Silverman said about 40 percent of all substantive legislation done in the past five Congresses has been done during a lame duck period.