2022 midterms recap: what happened and what the results mean for biotech

The 2022 midterms are officially behind us – so, what happened, and what does biotech need to know going into the new year? We spoke with two Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) federal and state policy experts to find out.

The ‘red wave’ that never was and the Georgia runoff

Like in 2021, the country found itself waiting on a Georgia runoff, but this time for one U.S. Senate seat instead of two. In the end, incumbent Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock (D) won reelection against the Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.

“Next Congress, the Republicans will have a very slim majority in the House. The Democrats will control the Senate. Even with the recent news of Kyrsten Sinema changing her party affiliation to Independent – she will caucus with the Democrats,” Aiken Hackett, Vice President of Federal Government Relations, exclusively told Bio.News.

The 2022 midterms were “a tide change,” she said. Ultimately, “[w]hile many believed there would be a red wave of Republican leadership in Washington, there was no wave – just a tide change, if I am sticking with the sea analogies,” Hackett added.

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New Congress, new leadership

As of this writing, it remains unclear whether current House GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) will have the votes within his own party to become the next Speaker of the House. Republicans hold the majority in the House by just five seats, making it difficult to determine if Rep. McCarthy will have the support needed to become Speaker.

Shortly after the elections, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (CA-12) announced she would step down from House Democratic leadership. Her decision marks the end of her historic tenure as Democratic Leader and House Speaker. She was the first woman to hold the office and the only Speaker in 70 years to have won the office twice – first in 2007 and again in 2019.

As a result of both Speaker Pelosi and current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD-05) stepping down from leadership, House Democrats have chosen a new generation of leaders:

  • House Minority Leader: Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (NY-08)
  • Democratic Whip: Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-5)
  • House Democratic Caucus Chair: Rep. Pete Aguilar (CA-31) will be House Democratic Caucus Chair

Rep. Jeffries will be the first Black leader of a congressional caucus, while Rep. Aguilar will be the highest-ranking Latino member in the history of the House.

A busy lame duck and a divided Congress

Ahead of the new Congress starting on January 3, 2023, this “lame duck” session of Congress may prove one of the busiest in recent memory.

“A divided Washington, and more specifically a divided Congress, may prove challenging for major legislative initiatives to advance. It is likely that Congress may just focus on must-pass legislation and policy areas of true bipartisanship – and that may even be challenging,” said Hackett.

“For BIO, there is a lot of work to be done to introduce our industry and educate these new members of Congress on the incredible work our companies do for patients,” she concluded.

What happened in the states?

This year’s state-level midterm elections were “significant and surprising,” according to BIO’s Vice President of State Government Affairs, Patrick Plues. Many will impact biotechnology and innovation.

“It was significant in that 46 of the 50 states held an election in 2022, which covered 85 percent of all state-level legislative districts in the country,” he said.

Plues added, “the power in a few key states has shifted in some very surprising ways.”

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The power of trifecta political control and supermajorities

Republicans still control most of the governor’s mansions and state legislative chambers, but Democrats are closing the gap.

Trifecta control means that one political party holds the governorship, a majority in the state senate, and a majority in the state house – and Republicans have trifecta control in 23 states, while Democrats have trifecta control in 14.

Trifecta political control brings a variety of potential consequences. In the case of the 23 states under total Republican control, there could be more anti-vaccine and anti-science proposals – particularly notable as we head into the fourth year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, in the 14 states under total Democratic control, we could see drug pricing legislation through Prescription Drug Affordability Boards (Minnesota, Michigan, Nevada, and New Mexico), International Price Indexing (IPI), or expanding on the outcomes of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

In states where Democrats control at least one chamber of the state legislature or the governor’s office, there could be a greater focus on environmental issues. Ultimately, Democratic gains could result in more legislation related to renewable chemical incentives and clean fuel standards.

After these midterm elections, 26 state legislatures have supermajorities for one of the two major political parties, with 17 in favor of Republicans and nine controlled by Democrats.

The governors

Going into Election Day, Republicans held 28 governorships, and Democrats held 22. Post-Election Day, Republicans hold 26 governorships, and Democrats have 24. Democrats took control of the governorship in Arizona, Maryland, and Massachusetts, while Republicans took Nevada.

Eight new governors were elected: Katie Hobbs (D-Arizona), Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-Arkansas), Josh Green (D-Hawaii – already sworn in as governor), Maura Healey (D-Massachusetts), Wes Moore (D-Maryland), Jim Pillen (R-Nebraska), Tina Kotek (D-Oregon), Joe Lombardo (R-Nevada), and Josh Shapiro (D-Pennsylvania).

Under new management: new legislators, divided government, and legislative chambers

Twenty-five percent of state legislators were newly elected, which presents a major opportunity for the biotechnology sector to educate legislatures on the industry’s value to their economies and to patients who benefit from innovation.

In total, nine states – Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin – have divided government, the lowest number since 1952.

Meanwhile, only four chambers switched hands from one party to the other: the Michigan House and Senate went to Democrats, the Minnesota Senate to Democrats, and the Pennsylvania House to Democrats.

Also, it is worth remembering that Nebraska’s legislature is nonpartisan and unicameral.

“Overall, the high turnover in the states means that lawmakers will experience a learning curve in better understanding the policies that underpin the biotechnology industry,” said Plues.

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