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New Congress Begins Work

Members of the 116th Congress were sworn in on Jan. 3, 2019, officially launching a new era of divided federal government. Republicans hold the majority in the Senate while Democrats control the House. Leadership roles have been formalized in both chambers. Senators Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) will continue as leaders of their respective caucuses. In the House of Representatives, Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is the new Speaker of the House with Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) serving as majority leader and Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) as the minority leader.

The Senate has already finalized members' committee assignments with a few notable changes. Newly elected senators Mitt Romney (R-UT), Mike Braun (R-IN) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV) will be joining the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) will continue to lead the committee as chair and ranking member. With Sen. Alexander's announcement that he will retire in 2020, many observers anticipate that the HELP committee will push to reauthorize the Higher Education Act sometime in the next two years.

On the Senate Finance Committee, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) returns as chairman with Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) continuing as ranking member. Senator Grassley has said he will focus on oversight of the nonprofit sector this year. Historically, Senator Grassley has been critical of endowments.

There are five new members of the committee: Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Todd Young (R-IN), Steve Daines (R-MT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), and Catherine Cortez Mastro (R-NV). Senator Lankford introduced the Universal Charitable Giving Act in the last Congress, a bill that would have extended the charitable deduction to non-itemizing taxpayers.

Given the change in majority, House leaders are still determining the composition of committees. As anticipated, House Democrats have renamed the Education and Workforce Committee. It will now be known as the Education and Labor Committee, with Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) as chair and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) as ranking member. Rep. Scott will likely focus on oversight of the Department of Education, K-12 issues and reauthorizing the Higher Education Act.

On the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) is the new chair and Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) is now ranking member. Democrats have announced ten new members of the committee. Republicans will likely have two new members who are expected to be announced in the coming week. Chairman Neal will likely focus on tax reform corrections and fixes as well as oversight issues this year.

For the latest news and developments on the 116th Congress, join the CASE Advocacy Network.

This article is from the January 2019 BriefCASE issue.

Member Profile: Charles Diab

Charles Diab is the executive director, advancement and alumni affairs at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

Charles Diab is the executive director, advancement and alumni affairs at the American University of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.

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