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2022 Midterm Elections

Focus shifts to lame duck session amid Republicans’ likely capture of U.S. House majority

As the results of the midterms are tallied, advocates turn to legislative priorities in Congress’s lame duck session while bracing for traction on anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have already been introduced.

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U.S. Capitol
U.S. Capitol building (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

With Republicans expected to wrest control of the U.S. House after the midterms, LGBTQ advocates are turning their focus toward priorities for the lame duck session before the next Congress is seated – while bracing for a hostile legislative environment next year.  

In the near term, a Republican majority in the House will put pressure on Senate Democrats to bring a floor vote to codify protections for same-sex marriage before the year’s end.

The House passed the Respect for Marriage Act (RFMA) this summer, which would require the federal government to recognize preexisting marriages between same-sex couples – a safeguard to gird against some of the consequences that would result if the conservative U.S. Supreme Court reverses or substantially weakens its landmark marriage equality ruling.

“All eyes are on the RFMA,” said Albert Fujii, press secretary for the LGBTQ Victory Fund, which works to elect pro-choice LGBTQ candidates. Clearing the 60-vote threshold in the upper chamber during this legislative session is reasonably likely given that a key number of Republican senators may support the bill because they are slated to retire or lose their reelection bids, Fujii told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Should Republicans secure a majority in the House, Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Ca.) is expected to become Speaker, a position for which he is backed by former President Donald Trump.

The Bakersfield congressman said that if his party takes the House, they will reinstate extremist anti-LGBTQ Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) right to serve on committees in the chamber. Greene was stripped of her committee assignments last year following revelations that she spread conspiracy theories and endorsed violence against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) on social media.

A Republican majority in the House would also mean greater chances of success for anti-LGBTQ legislation that has already been introduced, such as a federal version of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education (“Don’t Say Gay”) bill and Greene’s measure to criminalize healthcare providers who offer medically necessary care for transgender minors, Fujii said.

“With McCarthy as speaker, those bills have a greater chance of moving forward,” with members voting them out of committees and calling for floor votes, Fujii said.

Republicans only needed a net gain of five House seats in the midterms to win a majority. FiveThirtyEight, a site that aggregates and analyzes polling data, estimated that 10 Republican candidates faced odds of 90% or greater to pick up new seats.

Some of those represent districts that were redrawn to include more GOP voters, while others – in Colorado, Florida, Montana, and Texas – represent newly created districts that were expected to go red.

According to FiveThirtyEight, there were 19 House seats not currently occupied by Republican members that Republican candidates were favored to win, while Democrats were expected to flip only as many as five red seats.

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2022 Midterm Elections

Republicans gain control of the U.S. House

Narrow GOP majority could bode well for blocking anti-LGBTQ bills.

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U.S. Capitol
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Certainty over Republicans’ control of the U.S. House of Representatives crystalized on Tuesday, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fended off a bid for his position by fellow GOP Sen. Rick Scott (Fla.).

As the final votes from last week’s midterm elections continue to trickle in, by Wednesday evening it became clear that when the 118th Congress is seated in January, the legislature will be divided between the House and the U.S. Senate, where Democrats will either retain their 50-vote majority or win an extra seat, pending the results of Georgia’s runoff election in December.

It is the House, too, that will be divided, as the majority’s shift from blue to red was narrowly won, with only seven races whose results have not yet been tallied. Republicans’ control of the chamber comes with 218 seats, a feat they accomplished today. By 7:40 p.m. ET, Democrats had won 210 seats.

Leadership in both chambers has also been decided. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is poised to take over as House Speaker in January when the new Congress meets. McConnell, meanwhile, prevailed over a challenge for his Senate leadership by Scott, his Republican colleague.

“With a small Republican majority, we think there’s a greater chance of blocking anti-gay and anti-trans bills, which may now not even be brought up for a vote,” Geoff Wetrosky, campaign director for the Human Rights Campaign, told the Washington Blade by phone on Tuesday.

“Not only because of the composition of Congress, but also because last week’s election made clear that voters do not support this kind of extremism,” Wetrosky said.

Annise Parker, president of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, told the Blade by phone on Tuesday that “the first six months will be spent in internal warfare, but it’s clear that there won’t be anything positive coming out of the House for our community.”

There “very well may be negative bills,” Parker added, noting that with a slim majority in the lower chamber, there is unlikely to be much legislation, period.

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2022 Midterm Elections

Democrats retain control of the U.S. Senate

Catherine Cortez Masto won reelection in Nev.

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U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

Control of the U.S. Senate will remain in the hands of Democrats after U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) defeated Republican Adam Laxalt, the state’s former attorney general, in a hotly contested race.

The 58-year-old Cortez Masto has been serving as the senior U.S. senator from Nevada since 2017. Previously she was the state’s 32nd attorney general from 2007-2015.

Her reelection means that President Joe Biden maintains his ability to confirm judicial nominees and Cabinet secretaries. All eyes are now on the U.S. House of Representatives where the balance of power is at stake.

David Wasserman, a House campaign analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, told the Los Angeles Times Saturday that “it will absolutely come down to California,” which the Golden State’s 10 Congressional races are deemed most at risk of flipping and still too close to call.

Cortez Masto, the first Latina elected to the Senate, endured a tough reelection campaign made more protracted after the mail-in ballot counting with the results resting largely with the state’s most populous county, Clark County, home to Las Vegas, which posted updates once a day since Tuesday. 

NBC News reported that in the campaign’s closing days, Laxalt, a MAGA Trump loyalist who drew the former president as well as Donald Trump, Jr., to the state to stump for him, hammered a strict partisan message, vowing not to work with the left and promising to hold Senate hearings examining Biden’s top medical adviser Anthony Fauci and Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.

Laxalt had also questioned the results of the 2020 election, even saying the results were “rigged.”

“There should be consequences for people who undermine our democracy, who peddle the ‘big lie’ and conspiracy theories,” Cortez Masto said at an event in Reno, the state’s second largest city, in October.

Laxalt handily won the state’s 15 rural counties, in some counties winning 80 percent of the vote, while Cortez Masto steadily led the reliably blue Clark County.

Speaking in the Cambodian capital city of Phnom Penh, where he is attending the East Asia Summit, Joe Biden finished his remarks and then took a couple questions from reporters. When asked about the news of the Democrats retaining the Senate after Cortez Masto’s reelection victory the president said: “I feel good and I’m looking forward to the next couple years.”

In the press pool traveling with Biden, The Washington Post’s White House reporter Yasmeen Abutaleb, reported that the president made congratulatory calls to Cortez Masto at 10:08 a.m. local time and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) at 10:28 a.m. local time, (Cambodia.)

The president added that as he congratulated Schumer he noted their [Democrats] focus now is on Georgia.

“I’m not surprised by this … I think it’s a reflection of the quality of our candidates,” Biden said.

“It’s always better at 51,” he added and mentioned that with 51, Democrats don’t need to have an even makeup of committees. “It’s just simply better.”

“Republicans are going to have to decide who they are,”  the president reflected.

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2022 Midterm Elections

Trone wins reelection in Md. 6th Congressional District

Incumbent Democrat beat state Rep. Neil Parrott (R-Frederick County)

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Maryland Congressman David Trone (Photo public domain)

Maryland Congressman David Trone has defeated his Republican challenger in the state’s 6th Congressional District.

Trone defeated state Del. Neil Parrott (R-Frederick County) by a 50.38-49.5 percent margin.

The Frederick County Republican had been ahead of the incumbent Democratic, in part, because the boundaries of the district, which includes all of western Maryland, had been redrawn during the last redistricting. Mail-in ballots had yet to be counted when Parrott was ahead of Trone immediately after Election Day. 

“I want to thank Del. Parrott for his phone call this afternoon conceding the race,” said Trone in a tweet. “My promise to him, and to all of the people of the 6th District, is this: I’ll continue to work across the aisle to deliver results and get things done. Thank you, Maryland! Let’s get back to work.”

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