This article was published Thursday, Nov. 5. For updates as of Nov. 10 and a deeper dive into these insights, watch our Post-Election Analysis webinar.
At the time of publication, the Associated Press has declared a presidential victor in all but a handful of states, leaving pivotal Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Pennsylvania up in the air. A few key Senate seats, including two in Georgia and one in North Carolina and more than 30 House seats, are also too close to call. But with help from our D.C.-based consultants at Forbes Tate Partners, we’ve gamed out the various potential scenarios to explore what the White House and Congress could look like, who are likely to be key players on our issues, what can we expect between now and inauguration and how the outcomes might influence our work moving forward.
The House of Representatives
Democrats Poised to Hold the House, But Republicans Gain More Seats Than Expected
What Does This Mean: Democrats will retain control of the House but fell well short of expectations to pick up between 10 and 15 seats. In fact, Republicans may still gain some seats, narrowing the Democratic majority. While we believe the House will remain active on climate issues in the new Congress, it’s possible that, combined with Republicans likely retaining the Senate, Democrats might temper their ambitions when it comes to putting together a climate package. Likewise, while we could see additional protections for public lands and waters, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will have to be mindful of what she brings to the floor given her possible reduced majority. On trade, the House will likely continue to prioritize labor and environmental protections in any trade deals, as well as—for the first time—binding climate provisions.
While we believe the House will remain active on climate issues in the new Congress, it’s possible that, combined with Republicans likely retaining the Senate, Democrats might temper their ambitions when it comes to putting together a climate package. Likewise, while we could see additional protections for public lands and waters, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) will have to be mindful of what she brings to the floor given her possible reduced majority.
Republicans Likely to Hold Senate
What Does This Mean: While control of the Senate is still officially undecided, it is likely that Republicans will retain control. One or both of the Senate races in Georgia could go to a run-off in January, and the Republican candidate would be favored in both races. Democrats picked up seats previously held by Republicans in Arizona and Colorado, while Republicans flipped Alabama. As we saw with the Great American Outdoors Act, we could still see movement on recreation and conservation issues with a Republican Senate, though it will be tougher to pass more robust climate initiatives. Passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) suggests that a Democratic House and Republican Senate could work together on international trade issues.
As we saw with the Great American Outdoors Act, we could still see movement on recreation conservation issues with a Republican Senate, though it will be tougher to pass more robust climate initiatives. Passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) suggests that a Democratic House and Republican Senate could work together on international trade issues.
The White House:
Biden Has a Clearer Path to Victory
What Does This Mean: While the race has not yet been officially called (though that could happen as soon as today), indications are that Biden will win the presidency by successfully flipping Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Aggressive action on climate will remain a top priority for his administration, but if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Democrats will likely set aside more ambitious plans. The Great American Outdoors Act shows how Republicans and Democrats can work together on conservation issues and additional public lands and waters protections. On trade, Biden will prioritize “Made in America” and a more multilateral approach to trade disputes, relying on dialogue and negotiation rather than punitive tariffs. That being said, China Section 301 tariffs are likely to remain for the foreseeable future. Biden and the Democratic House will push Senate Republicans on strong labor and environmental and climate provisions in any new trade deals, using USMCA as a model.
New Faces Likely, Whoever Wins
What Does This Mean: Obviously, with a Biden presidency, we will see new leadership at Interior, Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative and other agencies, with dramatically different priorities on issues affecting the outdoors and the outdoor industry. Should Biden win, his nominees for those positions will be released over the next several weeks. With a Republican-controlled Senate, he may be compelled to send over more moderate nominees.
The Key Committees and Chairs
Republicans have term limits on their chairs. Democrats do not, and they appoint committee chairs and ranking members based on seniority.
House Natural Resources
- Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) retains the chairmanship.
- OIA will have a great opportunity to work with Chairman Grijalva on conservation, streamlining the permitting process, promoting diversity in the outdoors, implementing the Great American Outdoors Act and combating climate change.
House Ways & Means
- Richard Neal (D-MA) will remain chairman.
- OIA anticipates that one of our key outdoor champions, Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), will continue as chair of the trade subcommittee and work with us on our balanced trade agenda.
Senate Energy & Natural Resources
- Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) will likely take over from Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) who is term-limited. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) is ranking member.
- The outdoor community worked closely with Senator Manchin on passing the Great American Outdoors Act. Senator Barrasso helped lead the effort to pass America’s Conservation Enhancement Act.
Senate Environment & Public Works
- Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) is the likely incoming chair, with Senator Barrasso (R-WY) moving over to Energy and Natural Resources.
- Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) a longtime friend of the industry on climate and public lands and is ranking member.
- If Republicans maintain control, the gavel could pass to Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID), as the current chair, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), is term-limited. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) will continue as ranking member.
- Senator Wyden is a longtime supporter of the outdoor industry and has led several initiatives in the past consistent with our balanced trade agenda, including the U.S. OUTDOOR Act. Senator Crapo, in fact, was also a lead sponsor of the OUTDOOR Act and worked closely with outdoor companies on miscellaneous tariff bills and the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).
Prospects for a Lame Duck
We have seen early signals that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Speaker Pelosi will push for a Covid-relief package in the lame duck session, in addition to an omnibus spending bill to keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year. It is unclear, however, if an outgoing President Trump will have any interest in working with congressional leadership on either issue. It is possible that Congress could pass a short-term spending bill and consider the broader spending bill and Covid relief when the new Congress is sworn in in January.