118th Congress Begins to Organize, Senate and House Show Significant Contrasts
Last week, the 118th Congress officially kicked off. In the Senate, Democrats reaffirmed Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as the Majority Leader and Republicans reaffirmed Mitch McConnell as the Minority Leader without any major contention. Leadership has officially changed on the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee- Bernie Sanders (I-VT) will serve as the Chairman and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) will serve as the Ranking Member. While Sanders’s most high-profile priority is around college affordability, he has stated the educator workforce as a priority. Cassidy has a longstanding priority in support of children with dyslexia and has worked across the aisle on mental health priorities. Leadership on the Senate Appropriations Committee has also changed- former HELP Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) will hold that gavel, while Susan Collins (R-ME) will be the Ranking Member. The two have pledged to work together to advance appropriations bills. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet chosen leadership positions for subcommittees, including Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H). That gavel formerly belonged to Murray, and education stakeholders are hopeful her full Committee Chair position will be beneficial to education funding.
Action in the House has been more tumultuous over the last two weeks. After months of in-fighting within the House Republican Caucus, it took Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) 15 dramatic rounds of voting over five days to be confirmed as Speaker of the House. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was unanimously selected as the Minority Leader, succeeding Nancy Pelosi as the leader of House Democrats. Republicans hold a slim majority in the House, and if the Speaker vote serves to foreshadow future actions, it will be challenging to keep the Republican Caucus united.
House Committee Leadership has been determined- Virginia Foxx (R-NC) was affirmed as Chair of the Education and the Workforce Committee (formerly Education and Labor). Bobby Scott (D-VA) will be the Ranking Member of that Committee. As Chair, Foxx is expected to conduct intense oversight of the Biden-Harris Administration. The House Appropriations Committee will be chaired by Kay Granger (R-TX) and Rosa DeLauro will serve as the Ranking Member. DeLauro will also serve as Ranking Member of the Labor-H Subcommittee, with Robert Aderholt (R-AL) most likely chairing that Subcommittee. While Murray and Collins have pledged to work together in the Senate, a large block of House Republicans have stated their priority to roll back spending to Fiscal Year 2022 levels, posing a significant cut (approximately $130 billion) to domestic spending, raising very early questions about a potential government shut-down in the fall.
Despite the potential for chaos this year, nothing is ever certain in Congress and CEC looks forward to engaging on issues that impact infants, toddlers, children, and youth with disabilities and/or gifts and talents to continue to push for progress in that space.