November 06, 2014

Election results are in: Here’s what happened and how it could impact global health R&D

Senior Policy and Advocacy Associate
The voters spoke, and Republicans extended their majority in the House and took majority control of the Senate. Photo: VOX Efx

Election night saw an historic shift in Congress, with Republicans extending their majority in the House of Representatives and capturing the Senate for the first time since 2006. President Barack Obama now faces a united Republican Congress for the last two years of his term, and the key question will be whether he can work with Speaker John Boehner and new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or whether the gridlock will continue.

Another key story is the number of neck-in-neck races, with several races still too close to call.

Let’s take a look at how this big November shake-up might impact global health research and development (R&D):

House of Representatives

We rightly predicated that Republicans would keep control of the House and gain seats in the Senate. However, not only did Republicans pick up seats in both chambers, they did so on a large scale, the 114th Congress will be the most dominant Republican controlled Congress since 1929.

While leadership in the House committees with jurisdiction over global health R&D issues won’t be changing too much, there were a couple of key races we were paying attention to, including those of Congressmen Brad Schneider (D-IL) and Ami Bera (D-CA), who serve on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Schneider lost to Republican Robert Dold. Bera—who has been a strong advocate for global health issues—is currently trailing by a few thousand votes to Republican Doug Ose. With more ballots to count, final results won’t likely be known until this weekend. Last week, we mentioned other potential changes to the make-up of House committees, most of which we still won’t know until early next year when committee assignments are made. With a number of retiring members, we’ll be watching to see who gets tapped to fill roles in the House Appropriations Committee, as well as who is chosen as Ranking Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.


Republicans gained control of the Senate, which means there will be a complete switch up in Committee leadership. Photo: Greg Willis

As we predicted, the Senate is where things are really being shaken up. Republicans gained a total of 10 Senate seats, putting them over the 51 needed to gain control of the Senate. The all-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over deciding funding allotments across the US government, will look particularly different in the 114th Congress. Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR)—current chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has funding jurisdiction over the FDA—lost in a close race to Republican Tom Cotton. Current incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) will be facing a tough run-off election with Republican Bill Cassidy, and Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) is currently losing to Republican Dan Sullivan (although votes are still too close to make a final call). One bright spot for Democrats came in the reelection of Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), who will likely continue to serve on both the Senate Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees.

A Republican-controlled Senate means there will be a complete switch up in Committee leadership–with all chairmen roles in the 114th Congress being filled by the majority party—in this case Republicans. Committees also reflect the general ratio of Republicans and Democrats in each chamber; thus, we will also see members switching between committees to retain proper committee ratios. We will likely see current ranking members of both full and subcommittees—like Senators Jerry Moran (R-KS), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Thad Cochran (R-MS), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Bob Corker (R-TN) step into chairman roles.

What does it all mean?

Leading both chambers for the first time in years, Republicans will be anxious to show they can lead and are able to unify their party. Whatever the final outcomes of recounts and runoffs, we've got to start educating new members of both the House and the Senate on the critical role the US government plays in global health R&D.

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