Mass. stands tall in Dem majority

A blue wave in House would elevate some Bay State reps to influential posts

MASSACHUSETTS IS POISED to see some of the greatest gains from the mid-term elections if, in fact, the national polling trends continue to favor Democrats in November. In a House of Representatives with a Democratic majority, our federal delegation will rise in leadership and profile if they prevail in their own elections.

Aside from the political hype, the ascendency of our delegation brings a legacy of results that has benefited Massachusetts greatly through the years in areas such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, and energy.

Our senior House members, Richard Neal, who is unopposed, and James McGovern, with a Republican challenger, are likely to become chairmen of two significant committees: House Ways and Means, and House Rules Committee respectively. All legislation related to Social Security, Medicare, trade, and tax law fall under the purview of Ways and Means. The Rules Committee sets the guidelines for the consideration of all legislation on the House Floor, particularly floor amendments.

The influence of these two Members will be wide-ranging if they are in the majority, especially if the GOP pursues its idea of cutting social programs to reduce the growing deficit. Proposals that call for major changes to the tax code, social security, and health care deserve thorough committee hearings – a Congressional responsibility largely absent under Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Oversight is another Congressional responsibility that will take on new and substantive activity if the Democrats win the House on November 6th. Oversight keeps our leaders accountable. Consider this: Nearly 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria – a storm far deadlier than Hurricane Katrina – yet Congress held just two hearings with FEMA about Maria. In contrast, just weeks after Katrina, Republicans created a bipartisan select committee to investigate the federal response and the Senate held more than 20 hearings with FEMA.

We should expect oversight hearings on all aspects of government. All federal contracts and expenditures, including those related to the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, will be under the watchful eyes of US Rep. Stephen Lynch, running with no opposition, if he becomes chairman of the National Security Subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform. Rep. William Keating, trying to fend off a stiff challenge, will take on a similar oversight role on the House Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Seth Moulton, should he prevail over his Republican and Independent challengers, will gain rank on the House Budget Committee and chair the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations in the Armed Services Committee, where he will continue to question the Trump administration’s military strategy in Syria and other hotspots.

Our ability to gain federal resources also increases. On the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, unopposed, will be able to deliver more for families on rising energy costs and the epidemic of opioid addiction. Rep. Katherine Clark could possibly become Vice-Chair of the Democratic Caucus in the next Congress if she prevails over her GOP challenger. She currently serves as our state’s only member on the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

While accrued clout is important, our delegation is also part of the wave of change seen nationally. Our new presumed members of the House, Ayanna Pressley, and likely Lori Trahan who is fighting hard in her run against a Republican businessman, will be prominent in the large class of Congressional representatives propelled into office by a fired-up electorate. Their campaigns reflect of the changing voter demographics of our state and our nation. They will benefit from the influence of their fellow Massachusetts members when it comes to gaining assignments to the most appropriate committees. Massachusetts will benefit from their energy and determination.

Ayanna Pressley speaks at her victory party on September 4, 2018. (Photo by Michael Jonas)

The electoral map makes the path to a Democratic majority in the Senate tough, but not impossible. I have no doubt that Sens. Elizabeth Warren, running against two staunch supporters of President Trump, and Edward Markey will continue to wield great influence in that chamber. And, while the Massachusetts delegation is numerically small when compared to many other states, historically it has always been at the forefront of the national policy agenda. Our members are often shortlisted as possible presidential or vice presidential candidates. One thing is certain. The proclivities of our fractious, divisive White House will continue and a Democratic House will reassert its Constitutional power as a co-equal branch of government.

Meet the Author
Visionary, diverse, and responsible leaders are needed if we are going to steer this country back to sensible policies on trade, the environment, civil rights, assault weapons, concern for immigrants and their children and fair pay for hard-working Americans who right now still can’t make ends meet. A Democratic House can send the strong message that these are the things we stand for and care about. Is it the solution to all our current problems? No, but it is the beginning we need.

Thomas P. O’Neill III, the lieutenant governor of Massachusetts from 1975 to 1983, is the founder and chief executive officer of O’Neill and Associates.