The Race to the Midterms

AFSA On the Hill


Members of Congress have been busy on the campaign trail leading up to the November midterm elections and are gearing up for the lame duck session upon return to Washington on Nov. 13.

The most contentious deadline they will face is to find a suitable Fiscal Year 2019 government funding option for the remaining untouched appropriations bills—including State and Foreign Operations—that can pass both congressional chambers and be signed by the president.

Remember that Congress rejected administrationproposed cuts and restored funding for international affairs in FY18. Under the current continuing resolution passed at the end of September, foreign affairs (which includes both State and USAID) is funded at this same FY18 level.

With many members feeling heat back home for the price tag and process associated with the FY18 omnibus, Congress is determined not to push the decision into the spring—but the clock continues to tick as several key appropriations questions remain unanswered.

With Election Day around the corner and a historic number of congressional retirements, AFSA has been tracking congressional races and preparing for a large freshman class. In the course of a few days in early November, the control of both congressional chambers will be determined and the playing field for AFSA’s advocacy efforts will be much clearer.

The Foreign Service is the ideal tool to level the playing field for American businesses.

At least three of AFSA’s most-watched congressional committees will see new chairs and/or ranking members: the House Appropriations Committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In anticipation of this turnover, we have been building relationships with the potential new leaders on these committees and working to identify the future congressional leadership generally as seniority among members plummets.

In the next Congress, there will be, at most, just 45 senators who were in office before 2011. In the House next year, there will be, at most, 160 members—only about a third of the body— who were elected before the 2010 midterms.

One of the things we have been discussing with lawmakers recently is the role of economic diplomacy in maintaining and enhancing American prosperity. During the past six months, more than a dozen congressional hearings have taken place on the topic of Chinese competition or influence, and more are scheduled. Congress is searching for ways to arrest China’s commercial, economic and political gains at the expense of America’s global leadership. This is bound to become a central issue in the new Congress, and AFSA is ready to offer part of the solution: The Foreign Service is the ideal tool to level the playing field for American businesses—and, ultimately, economic diplomacy enhances American prosperity. This theme rallies the business community and directly links the Foreign Service to a thriving U.S. economy. And by advancing practical solutions to what Congress views as a looming threat in need of attention, AFSA is also creating new champions on the Hill.

Kim Greenplate is Director of Congressional Advocacy at the American Foreign Service Association.