Outlook for the 116th Congress: Back to Business

Outlook for the 116th Congress: Back to Business

This piece was originally published in the March/April 2019 issue of electroindustry.

Philip Squair, Vice President of Government Relations, NEMA

The 116th Congress convened on Thursday, January 3, 2019, with a bit of a hangover. Since December 22, 2018, certain portions of the federal government had been conducting only essential services because their authorized funding  had run out. Of course, the political maneuvering continued through the holiday season.

The partial shutdown affecting employees of the Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State, Transportation, and Treasury departments has largely been resolved. And so the business of the nation, at least in those areas where NEMA Members are most interested, such as trade, infrastructure, and energy policy, has more normal levels of activity.


One of the more visible changes in the 116th Congress was the establishment of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis in the House  of Representatives. Climate change is one of the most unifying issues among Democrats, which is why it has received so much attention so early. No matter how one interprets the often conflicting and incomplete scientific data, there is no denying that the issue galvanizes the Democratic Party faithful who will be a major source of energy in Congress and in the 2020 elections.

However, even before the committee was even established, its ability to effect policy change was muted in two important ways. First, important committee chairs whose jurisdiction currently includes climate change successfully demanded that the committee not have the ability to move legislation. This was an important concession from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that matches  a similar decision from 2007 when a similar committee was established. Second, the committee will not have subpoena power, which would have been a powerful tool to compel administration officials to testify.


Much of the NEMA legislative agenda focuses on urging Congress to implement policies  that encourage the use of modern and efficient electrical products. Our goals should align with many of those in the new House majority advancing a clean energy future. We will deepen existing relationships and build new ones so that American consumers can enjoy the benefits of the products that NEMA Members manufacture. Stay tuned for more political analysis on these and other issues facing our industry and the nation.

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