It may still be early in the year, but the 2014 Congressional elections are already heating up. The entire House of Representatives and a third of the Senate is facing elections in November. Between the IRS scandal, the fumbled roll out of the Affordable Care Act and the government shutdown, both parties have raised significant public ire. The economy is on an unsteady path toward recovery and unemployment remains relatively high. In the campaign world, this is the stuff dreams – and attack ads – are made of.
For the composites industry, this election is crucial. Many of our key supporters on Capitol Hill are facing tough re-elections and look to us to support their re-election efforts. Changes in control of either chamber or in party and committee leadership can drastically alter our legislative horizon.
The race for control of the House of Representatives is not likely to be the premier attraction this November. While polls show Americans are largely disgusted with Congress, their disgust is bipartisan in nature. The Republicans’ significant 33 seat majority, coupled with historic trends that favor Republicans in non-presidential election years, is probably too much for Democrats to overcome.
While control of the House may not be significantly in question, there are several matters at hand that impact our industry directly. Jim Matheson, a moderate-to-conservative Democratic representative from Utah, has decided not to seek re-election this year. Matheson has been one of the few Democrats calling for substantial regulatory reform and has taken objection to overly invasive chemical assessment programs like the Report on Carcinogens (RoC). Republican Buck McKeon of California is retiring this year as well, creating an opening for the chairmanship of the influential House Armed Services Committee and an open seat in an increasingly Democratic California.
Freshman Jackie Walorski, an Indiana Republican, is facing a very tough re-election campaign this year. Her district in north-central Indiana has more composites manufacturing facilities than any other in the United States. She has been one of our industry’s greatest champions in promoting composites to the Federal government as a solution to major national priorities in energy, infrastructure and defense. Mike Simpson of Idaho, another longtime industry supporter, is facing a tough battle in the Republican primary for his seat. As a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Simpson has played an important role in directing funding for oversight of federal programs that impact our industry.