Charles Cooper, Managing Director & Chair of Advocacy shares five key takeaways from this year that will help us better understand what to expect next year.
This has been an interesting year in Washington, DC. Many of the trends from previous years have strengthened in 2021 (both good and bad) and most of DC is ready to move on to next year. But analysis of 2021 is a good predictor of 2022. Below are five key takeaways from this year that will help us better understand what to expect next year:
Partisanship is Getting Worse, Not Better: It is hard to imagine that DC could have become more partisan, but 2021 has proven that possible. There is now less opportunity to work together and public messaging leaves little room for compromise. This may be why polls show Congress’ disapproval is higher than 75 percent. As the election year approaches, expect partisanship to get even worse (assuming that is possible) and not subside until after the election. That being said, partisan issues cannot move in DC, so any strategy to influence an issue in 2022 should include engagement with both sides of the aisle.
Advancing Big Policy is Possible: While DC remains hyper-partisan, policymakers are working behind the scenes on major issues together. Smartly, they are keeping those issues away from the spotlight. The Senate’s development and passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (PL 117-58) and the United States Innovation and Competition Act (S. 1260) represent major legislative opportunities that both sides of the aisle supported and passed. There is more to come on this front in 2022, but a delicate strategy will be required for anything that can gain bipartisan support in this current climate.
Intra-Caucus Divisions Remains the Biggest Political and Policy Risk to Both Parties: Republicans and Democrats have had internal divisions that have made it much more difficult to have a unified message and needed focus for the election. Divisions between Democratic progressives and moderates as well as divisions between Republican conservatives and moderates are likely to expand as the election nears. Regardless of who is in the majority, divisions empower factions and artificially create barriers to success. Whoever is more unified in 2022 will be better positioned for policy and political success headed into the election.
Deadlines Continue to Drive Action: The most powerful force for policy action in 2021 continued to be a looming deadline. Annual funding, the debt limit, and key reauthorizations were subject to extensions and last-minute deals. Deadlines have served to force both sides to come to the table, although it creates a dangerous policymaking process wrought with uncertainty. With major deadlines expected in 2022, including government funding expiring in mid-February, organic policy movement will take a backseat to panic around deadlines in terms of getting everyone to the table. The realities of an election year will likely rely on deadlines even more than usual.
Retirements Are Changing the Landscape in Congress: Policymakers announcing their retirement has caused a shift in the broader political and policy landscape. Lame duck policymakers can act without the traditional political and party pressures they are normally subject to. More retirement announcements are expected in 2022, which may create some interesting partnerships and votes on key legislation as the year progresses. With narrow majorities in the House and Senate, look to these members next year as especially influential.