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The New Balance of Power: What the 114th Congress Means for Business

As the now-lame-duck U.S. Congress convenes for its final legislative session of 2014, the 114th U.S. Congress is gearing up for action.  Officeholders on both sides of the aisle are preparing for the shift to Republican control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, and are anticipating renewed debate on a broad range of issues.  This collection of On The Subject articles examines what we can expect from the new Congress and how upcoming legislative efforts may—and may not—affect businesses in the United States and around the world.

Following the election of November 2014, here are the before and after numbers:






      234 Republicans

      201 Democrats (includes 1 currently 
               vacant R seat, 2 currently vacant D 


     At least 244 Republicans (net gain of at 
           least 12, largest R majority since 1928)

     At least 184 Democrats  
        7 races still pending


       55 Democrats (including 2 Independents 
               who caucus with Ds)

       45 Republicans


     53 Republicans (net gain of at least 8, 
           more likely 9)

     46 Democrats
            Still pending – Louisiana runoff on 
         December 6


The Democrats were delivered a serious and important rebuke by the voters.  Even attractive, younger incumbent Democratic senators, such as Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina or Senator Mark Begich of Alaska, who ran “perfect” races lost their seats.  Rising stars, including Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, barely returned.

The new Senate will be solidly controlled by the Republicans and the House will have a much larger Republican majority.  For Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who previously could be held hostage by a dozen of his own members, the larger majority will allow him to lead more and follow less.

But the Senate Democrats, diminished in number, will remain a brake on Republican legislative ambitions.  Under current legislative rules, it still requires 60 votes on most contentious legislative issues.  This requires the Republicans to maintain their party discipline, and pick up the remaining votes on the Democratic side.  For many reasons, Democrats historically have demonstrated they are unlikely to exhibit the same remarkable level of party discipline that Republicans were able to achieve while in the minority from 2012 through 2014.  A handful of Democrats represent “red states,” such as Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and often can be approached by Republican counterparts.  Former Democratic governors, including the above-mentioned, now-chastened Senator Warner and Senator Tom Carper of Delaware, are by temperament and deportment willing to find common cause to legislate.

For these and many other reasons, now that roles are reversed we believe Republicans will have more success in legislating and avoiding Democratic filibusters, the Republican versions of which so frustrated Senate Democrats in the last Congress.  But as the 2014 election becomes more remote, those Senators who “cross over” most often will have an even more complex task, especially if Republican hardliners stop most or all Senate confirmations, as some have threatened.

So what does this mean for business?  While oceans of ink and terabytes of data are being spilled over the answer, here are 10 areas where you should look for change:

  1. Oversight and Investigation

  2. Attorney General and Judicial Nominations and Confirmations

  3. Tax Reform

  4. Financial Services and Banking

  5. Health Care

  6. Energy and the Environment

  7. Immigration Reform

  8. Transportation

  9. International Trade

  10. Conclusion: The Next Election

© 2020 McDermott Will & Emery


About this Author

McDermott’s Food, Beverage & Agribusiness team comprises leading regulatory lawyers who advise on the regulation, licensing, distribution, labeling, current Good Manufacturing Practices, e-commerce, advertising, false claims and marketing of food and beverage products, as well as their related inputs.

We regularly represent clients and trade groups in preparing and submitting comments to agencies on emerging regulatory issues. For example, the passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act has ushered in a new wave of regulatory proposals and challenges for those involved in the...

202 756 8215
Carolyn B. Gleason, McDermott Will & Emery LLP, International Trade Attorney

Carolyn B. Gleason is a partner in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C. office. She heads the Firm's International Trade practice.

W. Kam Quarles, McDermott Will Emery Law firm, Legislative Affairs
Director of Legislative Affairs

W. Kam Quarles* is the director of legislative affairs in the law firm of McDermott Will & Emery LLP and is based in the Firm’s Washington, D.C., office.  Kam focuses primarily on agriculture, including food safety, sustainability, international trade/supply chain and phytosanitary issues.