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Changes Are Inevitable. Some Predictable; Others Not

November 2, 2018

We can expect important changes in the membership of Congress in 2019. According to Roll Call, 36 Republican House members and 21 Democratic House members have already announced their retirements, have been defeated in primaries, are running for or have already been defeated in running for other offices. Three Senators, all Republicans, have announced their retirement. The number of Members who will not be returning is certain to be much higher once the votes are counted.

Only some of the changes will affect the Alliance’s mission of advocating for increased appropriated dollars to fund FDA’s many responsibilities. In the House, we know there will be turnover at the top of the appropriations committee as Chairman Frelinghuysen (R-NJ) will be retiring. There will also be turnover on the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Subcommittee, since Chairman Aderholt (R-AL) is term limited under current Republican Conference rules. Representative Yoder (R-KS) and then Representative Valadao (R-CA) would be the next most senior Republicans, but both are reportedly in very tight re-election battles. The senior Democrat on the subcommittee is likely to continue to be Representative Bishop (D-GA), who will probably be the subcommittee chair if the Democrats control the House next year.

There are no current vacancies on the Senate Appropriations Committee, or its Agriculture-FDA Subcommittee, although there are a number of less senior members of the full committee up for re-election. Unless there is some unexpected re-shuffling of assignments, we would expect Senator Hoeven (R-ND) and Senator Merkley to remain the senior Republican and Democrat, respectively, on the subcommittee.

FDA has over the years been given additional responsibilities by its authorizing committees, directly and through user fee legislation. So, we are certainly interested in changes coming in the membership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. On the House side, seven vacancies are certain — five Republicans and two Democrats. Of note, a GOP vacancy on the Health Subcommittee will result from Representative Blackburn (R-TN) running for the Senate. We will also have a new senior Democrat on the subcommittee, since Congressman Gene Green (D-TX) is retiring. The Senate HELP Committee has only one certain vacancy, with the retirement of Senator Hatch (R-UT).

There will be other changes that will have a material impact on the consideration of appropriations and other legislation in the 116th Congress. We know for sure that with the retirement of Speaker Ryan there will be a new Speaker of the House, and perhaps other changes in the GOP leadership. Should the Democrats gain the majority, then we will see new Committee chairmen, and changing committee ratios that will result in more Democrats and fewer Republicans on each committee. While the Senate is less likely to see a change in the majority, it could happen and we would see additional changes in Senate Committee leadership and structure.

So elections do have consequences, some we know now and many others that will play out over the coming weeks. We will be sure to keep you informed.

Editorial note: This Analysis and Commentary was written by Roger Szemraj, Principal Attorney at Olsson, Frank and Weeda and an advisor to the Alliance.

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