Democrats Take Control of the House in Midterm Elections; Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session

Congress returns to Washington this week for the first time since early October. Lawmakers are returning to what many expected to be the outcome of the midterm elections, with Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate.

The Senate margin currently stands at 51 Republicans and 46 Democrats, with a run-off election scheduled in Mississippi, a recount of votes in Florida, and a race in Arizona still too close to call. The contests in Florida and Arizona are considered toss-ups while the Mississippi race is expected to stay in Republican hands. As many expected, the Democrats will have a strong majority in the House of Representatives come January with a current majority of 227 members to the Republican’s 198, with nearly a dozen races still too close to call. At this time, the House Democrats have gained 32 seats and the House Republicans have lost the same amount. Notable losses include several Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee, including Representative John Culberson (R-TX), Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science; Kevin Yoder (R-KS); David Young (R-IA); and Scott Taylor (R-VA). Several Republican members of the House Science Committee also lost their reelection bids, including Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Steve Knight (R-CA). Taken with the retirement of Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX), this will result in an overhaul of the Republican roster on the Science Committee in the coming Congress. It will be some time before committee assignments for the 116th Congress will be made.

At the top of the agenda for the next few weeks is finalizing the remaining fiscal year (FY) 2019 spending bills. About half of the spending bills have been signed into law, but funding for the National Science Foundation, Census Bureau, Department of Agriculture, and many other agencies is still not complete. The current continuing resolution ends on December 7 with Republicans anxious to complete the spending bills before Democrats take control of the House. Read about the state of play for FY 2019 appropriations here.

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