Tuesday’s midterm elections brought changes to the US Congress and state governments that will have implications for the WIC program in the coming years. Below is a summary of key election results and what they may mean for WIC and NWA's priorities.
What Happened on Tuesday?
Democrats obtained control of the House of Representatives in a close election, flipping at least 26 Republican seats to obtain a narrow majority. As of this morning, 23 House races remain undecided. Women now have an unprecedented number of seats in the House, taking at least 95 of the chamber’s 435 seats, as compared to the 84 they held in the 115th Congress. Two Native American women were also elected to the House of Representatives in historic races - Sharice Davids (D-KS-03) and Deb Haaland (D-NM-01). New Hampshire, Kansas, and Minnesota elected their first openly LGBTQ members of Congress: Sharice Davids; Chris Pappas (D-NH-01); and Angie Craig (D-MN-02). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) indicated that she will run for Speaker in the new Congress, whereas current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is already facing a challenger for Minority Leader in Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH). Republicans may vote on their leadership as early as November 14, while Democrats will likely vote the week after Thanksgiving.
Republicans added to their majority in the Senate, defeating at least three Democratic incumbents in states that President Trump had won in 2016: North Dakota, Indiana, and Missouri. Mississippi will hold a run-off Senate election on November 27 between Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy, a former US Secretary of Agriculture. The Senate race in Arizona remains too close to call. Senate leadership is unlikely to change, with Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) anticipated to remain as Majority Leader, and Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) anticipated to remain as Minority Leader.
In the states, Democrats flipped seven governorships across the country in states that have been led by Republicans since 2010: Maine, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico, and Nevada. Several state legislatures shifted as well, with Democrats gaining control in Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire. In Colorado, current Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO-02) became the first openly gay man to be elected governor in the US.
Voters also considered ballot initiatives, including three states that affirmatively voted to expand Medicaid access for adults – Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah. This result ensures that approximately 300,000 individuals will now have access to health coverage.
What Does it Mean for WIC?
Democratic control of the House of Representatives will alter the landscape of federal policymaking over the next two years. Whereas WIC and related programs faced threats from conservative House proposals in the 115th Congress, in the next session, the House is more likely to advance progressive policy priorities. For instance, the imposition of work requirements in SNAP and other programs is unlikely to be advanced by a Democratic House. On the other hand, proposals that would expand access to WIC, like those in the WIC Act, are more likely to gain support.
Conversely, the likely increase in Republican seats in the Senate, along with the loss of key Republicans Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and John McCain (R-AZ), will change the centrist dynamic that existed in the chamber in the 115th Congress. This will have significant implications for healthcare proposals and immigration, which could have implications for WIC’s ability to continue serving all eligible participants.
NWA will continue to update members on the composition of the new Congress, its leadership, and implications for the WIC program.