By Nick Yaksich, AEM Senior Vice President of Government and Industry Relations

Midterm ElectionsThe 2018 midterm elections saw a historic amount of turnout across the country. The culmination of U.S. voters’ decisions means Democrats now win back control of the House, while the Republicans add to their majority in the Senate.

To help make sense of what this year’s elections means for equipment manufacturers moving forward, here are a few early insights:

Bipartisanship Creates Opportunities For Action

As of Wednesday afternoon, Democrats claimed victory in 220 U.S. House races, while Republicans won 196. News projections indicate the Democrats are likely to add to that majority. Over in the U.S. Senate, so far, Democrat incumbents lost three Senate seats, while Republicans gained two.

The midterm elections' results taken together mean that, starting in 2019, President Trump will have a new opportunity to act as a dealmaker between Republicans in the Senate and Democrats in the House. During a morning-after-election news conference President Trump explained he thought the new political environment will create an opportunity to work together with Democrats and potentially kick passing new legislation into a higher gear, saying, “[W]e have a chance to get along very well with the Democrats, with a tremendous amounts of legislation and get it approved.” This includes focusing on passing policies that can benefit equipment manufacturers.

Infrastructure Prioritized

Starting with fixing infrastructure and finding the best way to pay for it has emerged as one of the top areas for bipartisan agreement in 2019. As part of her election night comments, U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi said “Democrats pledge a Congress that works for the people—for the people…Lower the cost of healthcare by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, raise workers’ wages with strong economic growth by rebuilding the infrastructure of America, clean up corruption to make Washington work for all Americans.”

President Trump agreed with Rep. Pelosi that infrastructure is an area where the two parties can work together, stating, “[W]e have a lot of things in common in infrastructure.” White House spokesperson Kellyanne Conway emphasized the point also, saying during a Fox & Friends interview, "The President wants to work with [Democrats] on infrastructure and spending bills."

In addition to federal races, eight new governors were elected this week. This includes seven new Democrat governors – Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wisconsin – and a Republican winning Alaska. Several of these new governors also expressed a commitment to tackling infrastructure, including Illinois Governor-elect JB Pritzker, Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly, Maine Governor-elect Janet Mills, Michigan Governor-elect Gretchen Whitmer Gilchrist, New Mexico Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Wisconsin Governor-elect Tony Evers.

That’s all good news for equipment manufacturers who build the equipment needed for construction and agriculture infrastructure projects. That’s also good news for the 1.3 million men and women equipment manufacturers support, with the opportunity for many more to be hired thanks to a modernization of our nation’s infrastructure.

Calls for bipartisanship immediately following an election should be taken with a grain of salt, however. For example, following the 2016 elections, both parties called for modernizing the nation’s infrastructure and signaled a willingness to work in a bipartisan fashion. However, nothing significant ever materialized. With another election over and a new Congress in 2019, equipment manufacturers will be working hard to let lawmakers know why starting with infrastructure is the best way to keep growing our economy and keep our nation strong.

Strengthening Ag Policies, Farm Bill Stays On Track

Agreement on key agriculture policies also looks to stay on track in 2019, including the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and present bipartisan opportunities for members of both parties to work together. Before 2019, this year’s Farm Bill can now continue to move forward, heading for the president’s signature before the end of the year. With the Farm Bill’s passage, farmers and ranchers will have the certainty they need to continue to invest in their farms, keeping the agriculture economy healthy and benefiting agriculture equipment manufacturers.

What Happens With Trade

Throughout 2018, trade policies have been a prominent topic, with the Trump Administration announcing billions of dollars’ worth in tariffs and negotiating a potential replacement for NAFTA. Both moves have already had significant impacts on the equipment manufacturing industry. However, it’s not yet clear how Washington, D.C.’s new political environment will improve trade policies and stabilize global trade relationships. When it comes to trade policy for now, while some pundits have speculated the president will look to escalate the trade war with China through additional tariffs, there hasn’t been any official confirmation from the White House. There’s also real work to be done on the possible ratification of the United States Mexico Canada Agreement or USMCA. While Canada and Mexico are expected to ratify the agreement by the end of the year, the U.S. Congress will not be voting on the agreement until early-to mid-2019.

Moving forward, look for AEM’s Advocacy Team’s analysis of key House Committee Chairs’ priorities when they announce their 2019 agendas. 

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