Democrats Take Commanding Control of the House; Slight Edge in Senate
WASHINGTON -- The Democratic party took a commanding lead in the House and blue gains in the Senate were just enough for a slim advantage in the Senate.
The Senate was split 51-49, including two independents caucusing with the Democrats. Democratic candidates Jim Webb (Va.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) won tightly contested races with respective Republican incumbents, George Allen and Conrad Burns. Allen was expected to concede to Webb last Thursday while everyone but Burns was calling the Montana race for Tester.
Just three Senate Banking Committee members' seats were in play this election: Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who lost his re-election bid to Bob Casey Jr., and Democrats Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) held their seats. Ranking Member Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) is retiring at the end of the session. Additionally, Senator-elect Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is a likely candidate for a seat on the committee, credit union lobbyists have said.
Santorum also served on the Finance Committee, which oversees tax law. Committee members Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) are retiring at the end of the session, but Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), who sit on the committee, were re-elected.
The Dems took the House by 27, as of press time according to The Washington Post, when they only needed 15 for control. Anti-credit union tax Ways & Means Committee Members J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) and Melissa Hart (R-Pa.) were defeated in the battle. Max Burns (R-Ga.), whom CULAC supported, was defeated two years ago by current incumbent John Barrow (D); Burns and Barrow were neck-and-neck at deadline. Former CURIA co-sponsor Nick Lampson (D-Texas) has won back the seat he held prior to his defeat in 2004, which was open this election. CULAC, which contributed nearly $3.7 million to federal candidates, was involved in 381 of the 436 House races. The candidates CULAC gave to, won 91% of those elections called at press time, according to CUNA Political Director Trey Hawkins, who added that those figures could go up as more winners were determined. In addition, there were 32 open House seats in which CULAC supported candidates in 28 of them. Of these 28, 24 won, only three lost, and one race was still undecided.
Gose also pointed out that CULAC had given to all 33 Senate seats up for election with 25 wins, 8 losses.
"The war in Iraq combined with the 'Foley Effect' likely created a Republican fatigue across most of the electorate," NAFCU Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Dan Berger observed. "And not only did the fatigue motivate Democrats and Independents but it also seemed to have dulled the enthusiasm of Republican voters." He added that it was disappointing to lose a number of credit union friends, but hoped the industry would create new supporters.
"Luckily, credit unions have such strong supporters for our issues in both parties that the credit union community will likely be just fine," Berger commented. "NAFCU has always successfully lobbied both sides of the aisle with our credit unions' bipartisan grassroots efforts and our bipartisan team of lobbyists."
CUNA Senior Vice President of Legislative Affairs John Magill said, "I don't think it's going to affect [lobbying strategy] at all." He pointed out that CUNA is pretty evenly staffed with Republican and Democratic lobbyists. He did say there would be a lot of educating to do with the new members of Congress.
Hawkins pointed out where political contributions are concerned, the only top 20 PAC giving more bipartisan than CUNA is the realtors. NAFCU/PAC is split pretty much the same way.
Overall leadership and committee leadership determinations are still a little ways off, Magill said, calling the current state of Congress "contained chaos." He did say the change of party control would likely lead to a shorter lame duck session. --firstname.lastname@example.org