The 2022 Midterm Elections’ Impact on the Security Industry
How SIA is preparing for the 118th Congress
The 2022 midterm elections are over and now attention turns to the 118th Congress. Republicans will have a slim majority in the House next year after netting 9 seats in November, and Democrats will maintain control of the Senate after flipping the Pennsylvania seat, regardless of how the December 6 runoff in Georgia plays out.
Leadership of the House for the 118th might still be in question (see our in-depth 2022 Midterms election results recap here), but before those votes can happen in January, Congress still needs to wrap up December.
The period between an election and the end of the Congress – the lame duck session – can be hectic. There are “need-to-pass” measures outstanding and outgoing legislators still have pressing agenda items they’d like to see finished before leaving Congress or yielding power.
With government funding set to expire on December 16, a budget, or in the very least, a spending measure, as well as the yearly defense reauthorization and the debt limit will be at the top of the agenda as the 117th Congress comes to a close.
The November midterm elections will change the calculus when it comes to the outlook for the 118th Congress.
Divided government is typically beset with gridlock and the 118th will be no different.
Given the flip in control of the House, any legislation over the next two years is going to have to be a bi-partisan effort. Certain “must-pass” pieces like the budget, national defense authorization, Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization and the farm bill re-authorization will all need to be compromise-driven.
Broad consensus among Republicans and Democrats might be scarce, but even in a time of division, deals will have to be made to ensure government can meet its basic obligations and there are still going to be several opportunities for bipartisanship that could benefit SIA members and help further our mission as an industry of making our communities safer and more secure.
AREA 1: School Safety
School safety programs got a significant boost in the 117th Congress – $1.3 billion, which includes funding for school security improvements – and with the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act this year, we now have a codified multiagency clearinghouse of school safety best practices and resources (the Partner Alliance for Safer School’s Safety and Security Guidelines for K-12 Schools are referenced at SchoolSafety.gov).
There is still work to be done and still untapped resources available. In the 118th Congress, SIA will try to bolster the efforts of 2022 and see that initiatives like authorizing Title IV block grants for school safety infrastructure and repurposing unspent emergency relief funds for school security upgrades get the consideration they deserve.
AREA 2: Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity is top of mind for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers – especially when it comes to government agencies and entities. Competing priorities and a dearth of resources have stymied agencies in the past, but modernization of access control for federal facilities and computer networks has become a much more pressing issue for Congress.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Executive Order 14028 are important steps forward in improving the nation’s cybersecurity. Congress and the executive branch can continue that work to strengthen cybersecurity measures, especially efforts to update and modernize federal IT programs, in the 118th Congress.
AREA 3: 21st-Century Workforce
Workforce development issues have typically enjoyed bipartisan support, which SIA expects to continue into the 118th Congress. The security industry is grappling with how to address emerging workforce challenges, such as a perceived skills gap and human capital shortage. Congress could help tackle this challenge through enactment of policies such as increasing the federal government’s investment and prioritization of STEM curriculum, incentivizing corporations to invest in the future workforce, fostering robust apprenticeship programs or expanding federal grant and student aid opportunities for students pursing degrees through vocational institutions.
Something to Keep an Eye On
The makeup of the House for the upcoming Congress is not a foregone conclusion. Republicans won the majority, but House Democrats are planning on continuing challenges against recently redrawn congressional maps – specifically looking to overturn maps in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas. Democrats pursued a similar strategy in 2018 of challenging maps in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina that ultimately led to more favorable outcomes.
What SIA Members Need to Know
Congressional Republicans have identified oversight as their number one priority going forward. While there are areas of common interest with Democrats (health care reform, China, big tech, cybersecurity), the Biden Administration will likely look to shift more of its focus from Capitol Hill to regulatory agencies – including the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Homeland Security - to achieve its policy goals.
The midterm elections might ultimately lead to a slight slowdown in Congress, but that has the potential to lead to more effective policymaking. Democrats still will not hold a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, which is needed to overcome a filibuster, limiting debate and allowing the chamber to proceed to a bill’s consideration. With the House flipping control, budget reconciliation, which had been a major policy tool for Democrats, will cease to be an option. Given those limitations, nothing significant will become law without compromise in the House and the Senate – which means there will be ample opportunity for the security industry to make its voice heard on any policy measure that does move.
There will be more than 70 new House members and at least 7 new Senate members. SIA will be working overtime in the coming months to make sure our issues and our positions will be top of mind for all of them during the upcoming Congress.
In anticipation of a shift to greater regulatory and administration-driven activity, SIA will also be paying closer attention to staffing adjustments, including senior advisors, and changes among cabinet leaders. The White House recently indicated that the administration is planning for potential transitions post-midterm elections; Biden’s Chief of Staff, Special Envoy for Climate, Director of the Office of Public Engagement and Council of Economic Advisers Chair are all possibly exiting in the next few months.
As of October, the Biden Administration has seen a nearly 40% turnover rate among its upper echelons. With more anticipated in the coming year, administration priorities could feel an impact.
Cabinet turnover in the first two years on the job is uncommon but not unheard of. Although the Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus recently resigned, thus far into the Biden presidency, not a single cabinet member has left. For perspective, Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush each had two members leave after two years, Clinton had three depart, W. Bush had one leave and Trump had seven leave. President Obama is the only other president in modern history to have zero cabinet exits before hitting the two-year mark.
House Republicans have stated they are going to focus heavily on oversight and investigations into the Biden Administration, which will likely mean agency leaders will have to a defensive position over the next two years. Republicans have taken particular issue with Homeland Security Department Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, even going so far as to call for his resignation. Spending and inflation are also of serious concern for House Republicans and Treasury Department Secretary Janet Yellen has been targeted for additional scrutiny. The prospect of in-action and increased examination might instigate cabinet-level departures.
In any scenario, SIA will be working to ensure that the security industry’s positions are given consideration at every level and in every step of the process – from the administration’s policy setting, congressional action and agency implementation. Engaging early and often, with all possible stakeholders, will ensure that SIA, and the security industry, are included in and involved in the most important conversations.