As soon as the results of November’s midterm elections were finalized, news outlets around the country began analyzing the makeup of the 118th Congress, which convened in Washington, DC, on January 3.
Pundits have spent the last two months trying to predict what lies ahead for the new Congress and, by extension, for the nation. Most wonder what the narrow majorities in both chambers will mean for the nation’s policy agenda. What issues will the new Congress zero in on? And, more important, on what issues of importance to us might legislators reach agreement over the next two years?
I’ve been following these analyses with great interest. But the variety of opinions I’ve heard over the past two months hasn’t changed my response to members who ask, “What will the midterm election mean for us?”
As leader of a nonpartisan organization dedicated to improving quality of care and quality of life for older Americans, I believe recent changes in the Congressional power structure can only mean one thing for LeadingAge and its members:
We will be busy.
Here in Washington, LeadingAge is already busy in three areas:
Policy: We’re hard at work framing our policy priorities to align with bipartisan interests and laying out strategies to work on those priorities. No doubt, issues that SHOULD be bipartisan will get caught in the crosshairs of politics. But it won’t stop us. We will continue to push workforce solutions, including legal immigration and expansion of domestic worker pipelines, Medicaid funding, telehealth, modernization of the hospice benefit, and support for the growing number of older adults with low incomes. We are getting to know new members of Congress and committee leaders—there are many—and identifying new legislators who will help us find key allies to help us move our policy agenda forward.
Leadership: When the majority party changes in either chamber of Congress, as it did in the House of Representatives this year, it sends a ripple of additional changes throughout the legislative branch. Each committee and subcommittee now has a new chairperson with a new staff and a new policy agenda. Adjusting to these changes requires attention, effort, and relationship-building from our Policy Team. Rest assured, our team is up to this task.
Relationships: We have spent years cultivating relationships on Capitol Hill—on both sides of the aisle. We’re very good at it. These relationships shift—literally overnight—after an election. But the important thing to remember is that LeadingAge never stops making new friends. We are getting to know new representatives, their staff members, and their agendas. And we’re making sure these new lawmakers know who we are and what we care about.
This process of intentional outreach will extend well into the new year. Indeed, we’ll be counting on you to help us cement these new relationships when you are in Washington for our Leadership Summit on April 17-19, 2023.
Your presence on Capitol Hill during the summit’s Lobby Day on April 19 is especially important this year. We need Congressional representatives—particularly those who are new to Washington and those who are new to leadership positions—to hear directly from you about the important work you do and how they can help you make a difference in the lives of older adults. We are strongest when we all pull together to advocate for policies that do just that.
Clearly, we have a lot of work ahead of us. I’m confident we will succeed, for two reasons:
First, we’ve been here before. Our Policy Team has years of experience successfully navigating change on Capitol Hill. To a person, they are energetic and enthusiastic. They have a thorough knowledge of the issues that are important to all of us. And they are committed to living out our mission—to be the trusted voice for aging—each day and through each conversation on Capitol Hill. That trust, built over many years, has helped us open many doors on Capitol Hill and will continue to do so well into the future.
Second, we have compelling stories to tell about the amazing and impactful work our members carry out in towns, cities, counties, and states across this nation. We never tire of telling these stories because they introduce you, and the important work you do, to legislators who can support your work. They tip the balance to turn policy ideas into legislation.
Election night may have felt like the finish line for candidates, but it is the starting line for us.
We are on it!