Let’s take a look at what we know about the Senate and House races and what those results will mean for key nonprofit issues in the next two years.
As we await the January 5 run-off elections in Georgia, it is unclear as to which party will control the Senate.
In the event the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Roger Wicker (R-MS) will continue as Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, the committee with principal jurisdiction over privacy legislation. Senator Wicker favors a robust national privacy statute with a clear federal preemption over state privacy laws, no private right of action, and a mandate that litigation must be filed in federal court.
Additionally, the Subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee with privacy jurisdiction will continue to be chaired by Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), who like Senator Wicker, also favors a robust national privacy statute with a clear federal preemption over state privacy laws, no private right of action, and a mandate that litigation must be filed in federal court.
Should the Democrats take the Senate, in the new Senate which will be seated January 3, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) will be the new chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. Historically, Senator Cantwell has opposed national privacy legislation with a clear federal preemption over current or future state privacy laws, and supports federal regulation as a “floor,” with the states free to enact their own more stringent state privacy statutes. She also favors a private right of action to facilitate class action lawsuits against violators of a federal privacy statute and allowing such class action suits to be filed in state courts, rather than federal court where uniform national enforcement is more likely to result.
Further, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) will become the chair of the Subcommittee with privacy jurisdiction. Somewhat similar to Senator Cantwell, Senator Blumenthal also supports a private right of action and generally supports the concept that litigation can be filed in state courts. It is unclear how Senator Blumenthal would ultimately come down on the issue of a clear federal preemption of state privacy laws.
Should the Democrats take the Senate, the new Chairman of the Finance Committee will be Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). Senator Wyden has been a long-time supporter of the nonprofit sector and has historically supported legislation to create a Universal Charitable Deduction; however, his position on expansion of the IRA Charitable Rollover is less clear.
In the event the Republicans maintain control of the Senate, the chairmanship of the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee, the committee with postal jurisdiction, is expected to pass to Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). The current Chairman, Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) is “term limited” under Senate Republican rules, and thus will have to give up chairing the committee. Historically, Senator Portman has not had a high profile on postal issues, and it is uncertain how he would view legislation calling for structural changes to the postal service.
Should the Democrats take the Senate, Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) will chair the Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee. Senator Peters has led numerous efforts to protect the Postal Service and was vocal on concerns about postal delays earlier this year. The long effort to get the Postal Reform Act of 2006 enacted into law stands as proof that getting Congress to enact changes to the USPS is no easy task.
The Democrats will retain control of the House, while losing 9 to 12 seats, depending on how a few outstanding races are decided. We don’t expect any major changes in the leadership of the committees of the House impacting the nonprofit sector.
In the House, the committee with principal jurisdiction over privacy legislation is the Energy & Commerce Committee. The committee will continue to be chaired by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), with the Energy & Commerce Subcommittee with privacy jurisdiction continuing to be chaired by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). In the last Congress, there was very little action in the House regarding national privacy legislation, with most of the activity occurring in the Senate Commerce Committee.
Congressman Richie Neal (D-MA) will continue as the chairman of the tax-writing committee, the Ways & Means Committee. Similar to the Senate Finance Committee, this committee has jurisdiction over Universal Charitable Deduction legislation, legislation to expand the IRA Charitable Rollover, and any DAF legislation. Last week, Chairman Neal released his Retirement Tax Provisions Package which included a provision expanding IRA Charitable Rollovers by raising the cap from $100,000/year that an individual can contribute to an IRA Charitable Rollover to $130,000/year – starting at age 70 ½. The retirement tax package is expected to be taken up early next year. Also, as in the Senate, no legislation has been introduced in the House regarding the regulation of DAFs.
The Oversight and Reform Committee has oversight of postal matters. Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) will continue as chair, while Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) will continue to chair the subcommittee with postal. Both full committee chair Maloney and subcommittee chair Connolly have cosponsored legislation which would relieve the Postal Service of the enormous liability of funding retiree healthcare costs and move postal employees to Medicare. But as noted, enacting changes to the USPS is no easy task.