Federal Legislation – Trump Praises Law Enforcement as PORAC Heads to Capitol Hill

Darryl Nirenberg
Partner
Eva Rigamonti
Associate
Cameron O’Brien
Legislative Assistant
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

President Trump Expresses Support for Law Enforcement in Address to Congress

On February 28, President Trump delivered his first speech to a joint session of Congress, striking an optimistic, bipartisan tone. In his speech, Trump touted the executive actions he has taken since his inauguration and outlined some broad objectives that he plans to pursue in conjunction with Congress.

As he regularly did throughout the campaign, Trump spoke very highly of law enforcement and reiterated that it has his full support. To create a future where every American child can grow up in a safe community, attend a great school and have access to a high-paying job, Trump noted, “We must work with — not against — the men and women of law enforcement.” Commending the dedication that law enforcement officers across the country demonstrate daily, Trump added that “they are friends and neighbors, they are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters — and they leave behind loved ones every day who worry whether or not they’ll come home safe and sound.”

As mentioned in last month’s column, Trump’s pro-law-enforcement rhetoric appears to be at odds with his administration’s reported funding priorities at the Department of Justice, as early statements from the White House have indicated that the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office is under consideration for elimination. Maintaining, and if possible increasing, COPS grant funding is a top priority for PORAC and is one of the key items that the Association’s members discussed with lawmakers during the annual Capitol Hill fly-in.

In addition to supporting those who fight crime, Trump also promised to provide resources for victims of crime — specifically, crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Trump said that he has ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create the Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) Office, with the aim of “providing a voice to those who have been ignored.” In the audience as presidential guests were a number of Californians whose lives have been forever altered by crimes committed by illegal immigrants. Jessica Davis and Susan Oliver attended in honor of their husbands, Placer County Sheriff’s Detective Michael Davis and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Deputy Danny Oliver, who were murdered in October 2014 by an illegal immigrant with a criminal background and two prior deportations. Detective Davis’ daughter was also a guest, and after calling her father a hero, President Trump said that the entire country was supporting and praying for her. Also in attendance was Jamiel Shaw, whose 17-year-old son Jamiel II was murdered by an illegal immigrant gang member in Los Angeles in 2008. Trump promised these family members that their loved ones would never be forgotten and that he “will never stop fighting for justice.”

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget and the Appropriations Process

Every year, Congress must fund the government through the annual appropriations process. That process is initiated when the president submits a budget to Congress. The president’s budget essentially functions as a recommendation, at which point Congress considers and ultimately passes a budget resolution that sets caps on allowable spending for various federal agencies and programs. Working under these budget caps, the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate begin to formulate 12 spending bills that encompass the entire federal budget.

Members of the Appropriations Committees wield significant influence as to what appears in the 12 spending bills. Prior to committee consideration of the spending bills, appropriators submit their own funding priorities to committee leaders — identifying federal funding and programs that they believe should be maintained, increased, cut back or eliminated altogether. In advance of the deadlines for these member-specific spending submissions, PORAC strongly advocated for the preservation of a number of effective law enforcement programs, especially the COPS Office, in meetings and in correspondence with appropriators.

Under a regular appropriations process, the House Appropriations Committee reports its appropriations bills to the full House for consideration in May and June, while the Senate Appropriations Committee usually begins reporting its appropriations bills in June and begins floor consideration of the bills in June or July. It is difficult to say how the other policy debates in Congress — including on the Affordable Care Act and tax reform — could impact the timing of the appropriations process.

Much of the attention on Capitol Hill has been consumed by the Affordable Care Act deliberations, but budget debates will soon come to the forefront, as government funding for fiscal year (FY) 2017 (which runs through September) is set to expire at the end of April. Republican leaders in Congress had hoped to pass a comprehensive FY2017 appropriations package in December that would have funded the government for the entire fiscal year, but the incoming Trump administration specifically requested that Congress instead pass a stopgap measure that would allow the new president to establish spending priorities. Thus, before adjourning in December, Congress passed a continuing resolution that will fund the government at last year’s levels through April 28, 2017.

Typically, Congress and the White House would work through the federal budgets for each fiscal year in chronological order, but Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently stated that the administration wants to address the FY2018 budget before making final spending decisions in the FY2017 budget. “Once we have a handle on FY18, we can start to backfill ’17,” Spicer said. President Trump presented his preliminary budget to Congress on March 16. It included drastic spending cuts across the federal government, as he has vowed to reduce its size and cost to taxpayers.

Spotlight on Legislation

Since the start of the new Congress in January, PORAC has been actively monitoring legislation that impacts law enforcement and has taken a position on a number of bills. Below is one bill that PORAC has expressed support for, as well as one that the Association opposes.

  • Synthetic Abuse and Labeling of Toxic Substances (SALTS) Act (S. 207): PORAC supports this bill, introduced by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), which is intended to make it easier to prosecute the sale and distribution of synthetic drugs. In recent years, some drug manufacturers have been deliberately exploiting weak labeling laws in order to sell products that, while marked “not for human consumption,” are widely recognized as synthetic drugs that often have dangerous side effects that threaten the safety of the user and other members of the community. S. 207 allows for the consideration of additional factors when determining whether a synthetic product is intended for human consumption — including its known use. This legislative change would make such products (and their producers) easier to prosecute, which in turn would help to drastically reduce the public availability of these deadly substances. S. 207 currently has 11 co-sponsors, including California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein.
  • Corey Jones Act (H.R. 158): PORAC opposes this bill, introduced by Representative Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), which would mandate (as a prerequisite for receiving COPS grant funds) that police departments prohibit plainclothes officers from engaging in routine traffic stops in unmarked vehicles. COPS grants are a critically important source of funding for state and local law enforcement agencies, and the ability to dress in plainclothes while conducting routine traffic stops is an important safety strategy. Threatening the inaccessibility of grant funds based on the use of an effective policing tool would be counterproductive to public safety efforts.

PORAC Members Advocate for Law Enforcement in D.C.

In late March, more than a dozen PORAC members traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with nearly 40 lawmakers and discuss the Association’s legislative priorities. Among the issues that PORAC discussed were funding for COPS grants, 9-1-1 emergency system reform and responsibly updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. A detailed recap of PORAC’s fly-in will be included in next month’s issue.  

Federal Legislation – More Executive Orders; Rumored Cuts Worry Law Enforcement

Darryl Nirenberg
Partner
Eva Rigamonti
Associate
Cameron O’Brien
Legislative Assistant
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

President’s Preliminary Budget Plan Targets COPS Funding for Elimination

While President Trump has yet to announce a complete budget for consideration by Congress, his administration has reportedly identified a number of programs that it suggested could be eliminated to reduce the national debt. While many of the programs named — such as the National Endowment for the Arts and National Public Radio — have long been Democratic priorities and thus are unsurprising targets for Republicans, many from both parties did not expect to see law enforcement programs among those proposed to be abolished.

For law enforcement, the most troublesome item on the elimination list is the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office. COPS grants have been instrumental to the operations of countless police departments across the country. This grant funding, which constitutes the majority of federal support that local departments receive, can assist with technical training, the development of policing strategies, applied research, guidebooks, the hiring of officers (both new and rehired laid-off officers) and the maintenance of officers scheduled to be laid off. In fiscal year 2015 alone, California agencies received $13 million in COPS Hiring Program grants and another 40 various COPS grants totaling $26 million.

The potential elimination of the COPS program is at odds with the pro-law-enforcement tone that President Trump took during his campaign, oftentimes referring to himself as the “law and order candidate.” It also does not seem to align with the priorities that new Attorney General Jeff Sessions pursued while in Congress.

Preserving and increasing COPS Program funding will be a primary topic of discussion during PORAC’s meetings on Capitol Hill this month.

House Expeditiously Passes ECPA Reform Bill, Action in
Senate Uncertain

On February 6, the House of Representatives approved by voice vote the Email Privacy Act (H.R. 387) — a bill to reform the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), which extended certain protections for telephone data and electronic data stored on computers. Representative Kevin Yoder (R-Kan.) reintroduced the legislation, which is identical to the bill (H.R. 699) that passed the House 419–0 last year but was not voted on by the Senate. In an unusual procedural move, House leadership brought H.R. 387 directly to the floor without processing it through the Judiciary Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over ECPA, or allowing amendments to be offered. Representative Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) supported the bill’s passage, but expressed his disappointment in the process by which the legislation was considered — including the failure of the House to address concerns raised by law enforcement.

“Going through the committee process and allowing amendments on the floor would have enabled us to address some of the concerns raised by law enforcement about H.R. 387, such as its view that the bill fails to enable personnel to expediently obtain evidence,” said Swalwell in a speech prior to the bill’s passage. “As a former prosecutor, I share [law enforcement’s] interest in making sure that while we improve privacy protections we do not impede the ability to bring people swiftly to justice.”

Swalwell’s statement echoes remarks he gave when the House passed similar legislation during the last Congress. He called on the Senate to address the points raised by law enforcement in order to improve H.R. 387.

Debate on the issue of updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act stalled in the Senate last summer as law enforcement organizations raised concerns with certain provisions contained within (as well as omitted from) H.R. 699 and a similar Senate bill, the ECPA Amendments Act (S. 356) sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah).

The markup of S. 356 was indefinitely postponed after then Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) offered a pair of controversial amendments that would have addressed some of law enforcement’s concerns but raised concerns among privacy advocates. The amendments would have 1) required service providers to provide content to law enforcement without a warrant in cases of emergencies and 2) required service providers to provide content without a warrant when the consumer gives consent to access that content. Senator Lee has not reintroduced the ECPA Amendments Act this Congress, and the Senate has not indicated whether it plans to consider H.R. 387 or pursue its own legislation to update ECPA.

ECPA reform will be a key issue that PORAC members will discuss with lawmakers this month during the fly-in.

President’s Executive Orders on Immigration, Travel Restrictions

Less than a week into his presidency, President Trump signed a number of executive orders regarding U.S. immigration policy. The first executive order pertains to border security and immigration enforcement. It notes that the recent surge of illegal immigrants across the U.S.–Mexico border has strained federal resources and overwhelmed agencies tasked with manning the border and enforcing immigration laws. In addition to outlining a policy to end “catch and release” practices, eliminate asylum fraud, and bolster staffing at the Customs and Border Patrol, the order directs the Secretary of Homeland Security to “take all appropriate steps to immediately plan, design and construct a physical wall along the southern border.”

The second executive order aims to end sanctuary cities by suspending federal funding for such municipalities; increase staffing levels at Immigration and Customs Enforcement while empowering those agents to enforce immigration laws; more effectively identify illegal aliens; and create a victim’s advocacy office for victims of crime by illegal aliens. The order notes that “sanctuary cities across the United States willfully violate federal law” and “have caused immeasurable harm to the American people.”

Notably, the order seeks to permit “state and local law enforcement agencies across the country to perform the functions of an immigration officer” within the U.S. to the maximum extent permitted by law. Such authorized actions would include investigating, apprehending and detaining illegal aliens and would support (rather than replace) federal performance of these duties.

The third immigration-related order, entitled “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” was perhaps the most controversial. The order prohibits people from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen from entering the country for 90 days, halts the U.S. refugee program for four months and bans refugees from Syria indefinitely.

The Trump administration noted that it did not provide advance notice of the order to avoid prompting expedited travel by potential terrorists before the new rules took effect. The lack of warning, however, caused significant confusion at airports as border agents tried to implement the new rule. Announcement of the order, which many view as a Muslim ban similar to what Trump promised on the campaign trail, and the ensuing confusion spurred protests across the country and at airports where foreign travelers had been detained.

Not long after the order was issued, a U.S. District Court judge declared a temporary nationwide stay on the order, which was met by an immediate appeal from the Trump administration. At the time this issue went to print, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld the lower court’s stay and the Trump administration announced it would not appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Federal Legislation – Government Avoids Shutdown as Lame Duck Winds to a Close

DARRYL NIRENBERG
Partner
JASON ABEL
Of Counsel
EVA RIGAMONTI
Associate
CAMERON O’BRIEN
Legislative Assistant
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Congressional Update

Narrowly avoiding a government shutdown, on December 10 President Obama signed into law a continuing resolution (CR) that will fund the government at last year’s levels through April 28, 2017. The House of Representatives voted 326-96 to approve the measure, and the Senate passed it by a 63-36 vote. Separate legislation that funds military construction projects and veterans programs through September 30, 2017, has already been enacted, but funding for all other aspects of the federal government was set to expire absent passage of this CR.

The CR’s passage in the Senate appeared uncertain as a number of Democrats, led by Senator Joe Manchin (W. Va.), raised concerns late in the process that the bill lacked a long-term extension of benefits for coal miners. Ultimately, the opponents opted not to force a government shutdown over the matter. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who represents thousands of coal miners, insisted that the matter could be addressed in the coming months. “I had hoped we’d get a year [extension]. But we’ve got until the end of April to get at it again,” McConnell said.

In addition to maintaining federal spending at current levels, the CR appropriates additional funding for a number of urgent needs such as overseas war operations, natural disaster relief and water infrastructure repairs in Flint, Michigan.

The House and Senate have adjourned and will resume session when the 115th Congress convenes on January 3, 2017.

President-Elect Trump Continues to Assemble Cabinet

With Inauguration Day just weeks away, President-elect Donald Trump has been busy building his team of top advisors. The nomination that will most directly impact law enforcement is that of Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) to be the next Attorney General of the United States. As Attorney General, Sessions would have the ability to shape federal policies and oversee the enforcement of federal laws.

Considered one of the more conservative members of Congress, Sessions was the first sitting Senator to endorse Trump for President and began advising the candidate on a number of justice-related issues after announcing his support for the billionaire businessman. In terms of policy, the two are most closely aligned on the issues of illegal immigration and border security. Both Trump and Sessions favor increasing deportations and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stem the influx of illegal immigrants, which Sessions recently called a crisis “that further undermines the integrity of our immigration system.” Many immigration activists fear that Sessions would exercise his discretion to ramp up enforcement of immigration laws that may not have been as strictly enforced under the Obama Department of Justice (DOJ).

In addition to immigration, surveillance is another policy area where a Sessions-led DOJ may look to take action. Sessions has long supported allowing law enforcement broad access to electronic data pertinent to criminal investigations. For example, when Apple refused to assist the Federal Bureau of Investigations in decrypting the mobile device used by the San Bernardino terrorists, Sessions chastised the company for not understanding the seriousness of the matter. Additionally, when the Senate was planning to consider updating the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) this summer, Senator Sessions offered amendments to the legislation that would have required providers to turn over to law enforcement an individual’s electronic communications content (including emails, browsing histories, IP addresses and other information) if a government official declared that it was an emergency. PORAC did not support the overall bill to update ECPA, which ultimately was not voted on by the Senate, but expressed its strong support for the changes proposed by Senator Sessions and believes they would represent an important starting point in remedying the flaws in the bill.

An Attorney General Sessions might also revive enforcement of federal marijuana laws. Under President Obama, the DOJ has largely taken a hands-off approach when it comes to enforcing the Controlled Substances Act’s (CSA) prohibition on marijuana in states that have approved the medical or recreational use of the drug. An outspoken critic of marijuana and staunch opponent to legalization efforts, Sessions could abandon the current approach in favor of stricter CSA enforcement regardless of the decisions made by individual states.

The Attorney General has the authority to investigate accusations of misconduct by law enforcement agencies across the country, a tool that has been used regularly by the Obama DOJ. Through the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, the administration has investigated incidents in cities such as Baltimore, Maryland, and Ferguson, Missouri. It is unclear whether Sessions would continue to prioritize similar investigations into police misconduct.

As a potential member of the president’s cabinet, Sessions must undergo Senate confirmation, a process with which he is very familiar. Sessions went through the process when he was nominated by President Ronald Reagan to a federal judgeship in 1986, but his confirmation was ultimately denied after lawyers testified that he had used racially charged language during his time as the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Alabama. Sessions has refuted those claims but will likely have to answer for those accusations again as he seeks confirmation as Attorney General.

Feinstein to Assume Judiciary Committee Leadership Post

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will serve as Ranking Member on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the 115th Congress, becoming the first woman in history to hold the post. Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who has been the top Democrat on the committee since 2001, vacated the position when he decided to replace retiring Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.).

Feinstein’s appointment comes just as the Judiciary Committee is preparing to play a significant role in a range of matters in the coming Congress. The most prominent and pressing issues under the committee’s jurisdiction are the Attorney General and yet-to-be-determined Supreme Court nominations. The committee will also be tasked with any immigration, surveillance and criminal justice reform legislation, among other topics. PORAC has already reached out to Senator Feinstein’s office to discuss a variety of law enforcement matters that will be on the agenda in the next Congress.

Many Democrats are hoping that Feinstein will act as a check on the Trump Administration — a role that the Senator seems eager to embrace. “When President-elect Trump is willing to support responsible policies and nominees, I’ll hear him out, but this committee has a vital role to protect the Constitution and scrutinize policies, senior officials and judges very carefully, and that’s what we intend to do,” Feinstein said.

Becerra Leaving U.S. House to Be California AG

Following the election of outgoing California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D) to the U.S. Senate, Governor Jerry Brown (D) tapped U.S. Representative Xavier Becerra (D) to be the state’s next Attorney General. Becerra, who has served his district since 1993 and is the highest-ranking Hispanic member of Congress, was set to become the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.

In accepting the nomination, Becerra said that he could not refuse the opportunity to serve his home state. “As former Deputy Attorney General, I relished the chance to be our state’s chief law enforcement officer to protect consumers, advance criminal justice reform and, of course, keep our families safe,” Becerra said.

Shortly after Governor Brown named Becerra as Harris’s replacement, former state Assembly Speaker John Perez announced that he would pursue the seat and quickly earned a number of endorsements — including from Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Within a matter of days, however, Perez removed himself from the race due to a newly diagnosed health condition. State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D) has officially entered the race and earned the endorsements of several Congressional Hispanic Caucus members. Former Bernie Sanders campaign strategist Arturo Carmona (D) and former aide to L.A. City Councilman Jose Huizar Sara Hernandez have also entered the race.

Becerra’s nomination is subject to confirmation by the California State Assembly and Senate. The special election to replace Becerra will likely not be held until spring 2017 and may coincide with already scheduled citywide elections in either March or May.

The Post-Election Landscape

DARRYL NIRENBERG
Partner
JASON ABEL
Of Counsel
EVA RIGAMONTI
Associate
CAMERON O’BRIEN
Legislative Assistant
Steptoe & Johnson LLP

Presidential Race

In a stunning outcome that defied every major national poll and the predictions of countless political pundits, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States on November 8. Trump amassed a number of victories in key battleground states that ultimately pushed him past the pivotal threshold of 270 Electoral College votes necessary to win, ending the race with 290 to Hillary Clinton’s 228. Trump’s victory will go down as one of the most stunning upsets in American history.

The decisive win hinged on Trump’s success across competitive states that the Clinton campaign was confident it could win. One of the first significant states to fall in Trump’s favor was Ohio, which he won by nearly 10 points and which earned him 18 electoral votes. The Republican nominee also prevailed by roughly four points in North Carolina to earn its 15 electoral votes. In Florida, the race appeared tight all evening, with Trump finally taking all 29 electoral votes after beating Clinton by two points. One of Trump’s most surprising wins came in Pennsylvania, which the Democrats had won in each of the previous six presidential elections, where Trump beat Clinton by more than a percentage point to take home its 20 electoral votes.

While many surmised that Trump’s only route to victory would require him to win Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Pennsylvania, he went even further by securing upsets in Wisconsin (10 electoral votes) and Michigan (16 electoral votes). Clinton had considered both states relatively safe, not even visiting Wisconsin after the national conventions. Trump did not even campaign in the two states until the election’s final days, but remarkably became the first Republican to win Wisconsin since 1984 and Michigan since 1988.

Although she won in the electoral vote-rich states of California (55), New York (29), Illinois (20) and Virginia (13), Clinton could not make up enough ground to win. As this article went to press, Clinton led the popular vote by more than 2.5 million, but that provides little consolation for a campaign that was aiming to send a woman to the White House for the first time.

In his acceptance speech, Trump congratulated Clinton and called for unity. “Now it is time for America to bind the wounds of division,” said Trump, whose campaign was marked by divisive rhetoric. “To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

In her concession speech, Clinton said that the loss was “painful” but the country must accept the result and look to the future: “Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”

President Obama, who actively campaigned against Trump, spoke from the Rose Garden about the impending transition of power. “It is no secret that the president-elect and I have some pretty significant differences. But, remember, eight years ago President Bush and I had some pretty significant differences,” Obama said. “We are now all rooting for his success in uniting and leading the country.”

Senate Races

In addition to reclaiming the White House, Republicans maintained their majority in the Senate as many of their candidates, similar to Trump, outperformed the numbers they achieved in recent polls. Heading into Election Day, both parties had identified nine pivotal races that were key to Republican Senate control. The GOP won six of those contests.

In North Carolina, Senator Richard Burr (R) was able to hold off challenger Deborah Ross (D). Burr received 51% of the vote to Ross’ 45%, earning a third term. In Florida, Senator Marco Rubio (R) was re-elected by a wide margin, defeating Congressman Patrick Murphy (D) 52% to 44%. While Republicans had long been favored to win in North Carolina and Florida, recent polls had shown the races tightening.

In Missouri, Senator Roy Blunt scored a convincing win (49% to 46%) over Jason Kander (D). Kander, Missouri’s Secretary of State, was polling well in the days before the election but was not able to overcome the down-ballot boost that Trump gave to Blunt.

Another race that did not unfold the way the polling predicted was in Pennsylvania, where Senator Pat Toomey (R) beat Katie McGinty (D) 49% to 47%. Many had anticipated that Democrats would win the seat on their way to reclaiming the Senate majority, but Trump’s impressive performance in Pennsylvania undoubtedly bolstered Toomey’s support.

Defying early predictions that the Republicans would lose Senate seats in Indiana and Wisconsin, voters prevented two Democratic former senators from returning to Congress. Congressman Todd Young (R) beat former Senator Evan Bayh (D) 52% to 42% in the race to replace retiring Indiana Senator Dan Coats (R). Meanwhile, Senator Ron Johnson (R) defeated former Senator Russ Feingold (D) in Wisconsin 50% to 47%. The Democratic challengers in both of these races had been favored early on, but those predictions, too, turned out to be inaccurate.

Democrats did win three key races. In Nevada, former state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto (D) beat Republican Congressman Joe Heck 47% to 45% to become the first Latina ever elected to the U.S. Senate. Cortez Masto will replace outgoing Minority Leader Harry Reid (D), who worked hard to ensure that his seat remained in Democratic hands. Democrats also picked up seats in Illinois, where Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth handily defeated Senator Mark Kirk (R), and in New Hampshire, where Governor Maggie Hassan (D) narrowly defeated incumbent Kelly Ayotte (R). Joining the newly elected Democratic women in the Senate is California Attorney General Kamala Harris (D), who will replace retiring California Senator Barbara Boxer after defeating fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez. PORAC endorsed Senator-elect Harris early in her campaign.

While many had expected the Democrats to win a majority in the Senate, Republicans locked up the majority with at least 51 seats. Louisiana will hold a run-off election in December, and it is likely that Republicans will win that seat to push the majority to 52.

House Races

As recently as October, House Democrats were optimistic that they could put a serious dent in the Republicans’ 247-seat majority and potentially even win control. As race results rolled in on election night, however, it became resoundingly clear that the GOP majority was not in jeopardy. By midday on November 9, Republicans were projected to come away with 239 seats and Democrats were set to hold 193 (with three races remaining undecided). In total, Democrats picked up a net of seven seats — a modest gain considering that many believed Republicans would lose 10 to 20 seats.

Pulling support from Trump voters, the GOP had a strong showing across much of the country, the South in particular. Although Republicans have to be pleased with the overall results, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) faces uncertainty from the conservative wing within his party. Ryan has said that he will seek the speakership, but his troubled history with the President-elect could complicate matters. Ryan refused to fully support Trump during the campaign, and many in Trump’s camp are concerned about Ryan continuing to serve as Speaker. But it now appears that Trump may be prepared to work with Ryan as Speaker, and that may dampen opposition from within the House Republican conference.

Lame-Duck Period and Looking
Ahead

Had Hillary Clinton won, the lame-duck period would have likely been very active, with a Republican-controlled Congress moving to impose its legislative will before she took office. Now that the White House will be under Republican control, however, Congress may focus more narrowly on must-pass legislation and organizing for the new Congress.

The priority of the lame-duck period will be to pass a funding package that keeps the federal government operating beyond early December. In September, Congress passed a continuing resolution that funded federal programs until December 9 at last year’s levels. While congressional leaders had been debating whether to pursue a comprehensive spending bill encompassing all federal funding or work to enact a number of smaller appropriations bills, now there is a strong chance that they will simply pass another continuing resolution and try to craft a more comprehensive spending agreement in the new Congress.

An all-Republican Congress and White House should allow the GOP to set the agenda early and work to enact legislation undoing many policies that President Obama put in place over the last eight years, including those established by administrative fiat. Republicans are expected to target, at the outset, the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare), which they have wanted to repeal for years. It remains to be seen, however, whether Republicans will be able to agree on how to address the health care law.

It is also expected that there will be action early next Congress to address what has been one of Trump’s most enduring promises: building a wall on the Mexican border. He is expected to offer a wall-implementation proposal with a more comprehensive infrastructure plan. Even if the concept of a border wall gains widespread support in Congress, debates over how to fund its construction are sure to create controversy. Trump has said many times that he will force Mexico to pay for the wall, while Mexico’s president has strongly denied that possibility.