President Obama Elected to Second Term
Republicans Retain Control of House,
Democrats Add to Senate Majority
Voters Approve 19 Ballot Initiatives Generating Over $2.4 Billion for Transportation Projects
Americans across the country voted November 6 to essentially maintain the division of power that has existed at the federal level since 2011—retaining Barack Obama as president, Democrats in control of the Senate, and Republicans leading the House. The largely status quo results come after an estimated $6 billion in political spending by candidates for federal office and outside groups. Unlike the 2010 mid- term elections where Republicans made large gains spurred by the Tea Party movement, voters seem to have cast their ballots for individual candidates rather than party messages in 2012—as evidenced by multiple states that elected a senator from one party and supported the opposing party’s presidential candidate.
Republicans will likely have a 235-200 majority in the House after Democrats appear poised to gain seven seats compared to 2010 results. Democrats also gained two seats in the Senate, increasing their majority from 53-47 to 55-45—Senator-elect Angus King (I-Maine) has not officially announced which party, if any, he will caucus with once sworn in but is widely expected to choose to select the majority.
With votes still being counted in a number of states, both parties used the election results to affirm their long-held positions relating to the so-called fiscal cliff—a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that will be implemented at the end of 2012 barring no legislative action. While President Obama’s post-election speech highlighted the need for Republicans and Democrats to compromise on matters critical to the country, White House aides are claiming the election shows the American people support the President’s efforts to increase taxes on high-income individuals. House Speaker John Boehner (R- Ohio) held a November 7 press conference at which he expressed a desire to work with President Obama to find common ground. He reiterated criticism of raising tax rates, but signaled the party was open to reforming the tax code, which he claimed could generate a growth in overall tax revenues.
This public jockeying is not surprising as each party knows a negotiation on taxes and spending is looming and they are staking out initial positions. The tone of the engagement between President Obama and congressional leaders in the coming days—particularly during the post-election session of Congress that convenes November 13—will provide a better indicator of how the two sides will work together now that the political environment has stabilized. In addition to the fiscal cliff, major transportation-specific items on the congressional agenda for the next two years include: federal transportation investment levels for the remainder of FY 2013 and 2014; the reauthorization of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21); the overdue port and waterway authorization bill; and broad reform of federal tax policy.
House & Senate
In the Senate, the Democrats’ gains are significant as many pundits speculated the Republicans would take control of the chamber because Democrats had to defend 23 seats to the Republicans’ 10. Republicans were hopeful Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.) would be able to hold onto the seat once held by Ted Kennedy in one of the most Democratic states in the nation, but Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren pulled away in the last weeks of the campaign to switch the seat back to the Democrats. Heidi Heitkamp (D) successfully defended retiring Senator Kent Conrad’s (D) senate seat in North Dakota despite tough opposition from U.S. Representative Rick Berg (R-N.D.). The controversial statements of Representatives Todd Akin (R-Mo.) and Richard Mourdock (R-Ind.), who were each expected to win their respective Senate races, weakened chances for the Republicans take over the Senate.
The Democrats’ pick-ups in the Senate are marginal and will not necessarily change how it is governed for the next two years. Senate procedures empower the minority to block legislation—unless a three- fifthssupermajoritycanbeachieved. Securingthis60-votethresholdhasbeennecessaryformost major bills over the last decade, including reauthorizations of the federal highway/transit programs, no matter which party controlled the Senate. Democrats and the Independents who are expected to caucus with them will still need at least five Republicans to get the votes necessary to move bills in the next Congress.
The institution of the House of Representatives greatly advantages the majority party. Although Republicans lost a few seats, they will still enjoy control of the chamber and will be able to dictate the House’s legislative agenda in the new Congress.
The congressional redistricting process, which follows each U.S. Census, did not have a major effect on party control in this election. States like Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington each added one House seat to their delegations. Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania all lost one House seat. Florida gained two seats, while New York and Ohio each lost two. Texas saw the biggest shift in its congressional delegation with four new House seats, reflecting a significant population shift to the state over the past decade. The redistricting process did not have a large effect on party control in the House as state-approved redistricting plans left both Democrats and Republicans in difficult situations, sometimes pitting members of the same party against each other in what are referred to as “jungle elections” which abandon the traditional party versus party format.
State and Local
Of the 11 gubernatorial races on the ballot this year, two switched party control—each party gained and lost one—resulting in a wash. As a result, Republicans continue to hold 29 governorships to the Democrats’ 20. Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is an independent and former Republican.
Voters also participated in ballot initiatives in 15 states regarding transportation and showed once again the importance of transportation by approving 68 percent of the measures to increase or extend funding for highways, bridges and transit. This is in line with years past—in 2010 voters approved 61 percent of similar measures; they approved 78 percent in 2008; 77 percent in 2006; and 76 percent in 2004. The total value approved this year was over $2.4 billion.
ARTBA tracked 31 measures overall—five were statewide initiatives and 26 were local. All of the seven bond initiatives were approved by voters. Eighteen measures called for increasing, extending or renewing a sales tax for transportation purposes, two were property tax extensions and one was for a local gas tax.
A full analysis of the transportation-related ballot initiatives appears on page 10 of this report.
Given the relatively status quo results of the 2012 election, Congress now has an opportunity to build uponthepassageofMAP-21.
The freshman class of the 2010 elections now has a transportation bill under its belt and is significantly more familiar with the issues affecting ARTBA members. They should stand ready to begin work on the next reauthorization well ahead of MAP-21’s September 30, 2014, expiration as well as developing solutions to the long-term fiscal health of the country, which should include transportation revenue and investment decisions. The divided party control of the House, Senate and White House continues to demand bipartisan support for enactment of legislation. The passage of MAP-21 was one of the few bipartisan achievements for Congress in 2012.
ARTBA will adhere to its long-standing practice of working with members of both parties to advance pro- transportation policies.
To view the full report visit ARTBA at: www.artba.org