As the dust settles on the 2018 midterm election, agents across the country may be wondering how the new balance of power will affect their businesses and livelihoods.
Democrats will now control the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, resulting in new House leadership, new House Committee chairs and new policy priorities. Republicans will remain in control of the U.S. Senate with an expanded majority, meaning some of the current chairs and leadership positions will remain the same. The new dynamic between House Democrats and Senate Republicans (and the Trump Administration), will certainly change legislative priorities and expectations moving forward.
For the insurance industry and the Big “I” in particular, the new balance of power in Congress will likely end up being a mixed bag.
Perhaps one of the biggest anticipated changes as a result of the election is that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will take an aggressive stance on oversight and investigations of the Trump Administration. This could include significant oversight of the Administration’s broader deregulation agenda, which could slow down or alter certain business-friendly initiatives.
The change in Congress could also have an impact on one of the top priorities of the Big “I”—reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While some Republicans remain skeptical of the NFIP, Democrats in the House generally support the federal program. This dynamic could make it easier to obtain a long-term NFIP reauthorization—something that has not occurred since 2012. However, Democrat control of the House could make it more difficult to close the flood insurance coverage gap—a Big “I” goal—with some Democrats skeptical of increasing private market involvement.
Another issue that could see movement as result of the flip in the House of Representatives is data security. While House Republicans released legislation earlier this year that included some positives and some negatives, Democrats are expected to be more aggressive and perhaps tougher on the financial industry as a whole with any proposal.
One issue where the Big “I” doesn’t expect a significant change is the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program (TRIP). The program has had bipartisan support in the past and, unlike the NFIP, it is a reinsurance program as opposed to a primary insurance program. While Congress will surely consider potential reforms to TRIP, the program is expected to maintain support. Similarly, the change in control likely won’t have a large impact on the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), since congressional support for the FCIP largely breaks along geographical lines. The FCIP will continue to garner support from traditional farming states, regardless of which party controls those seats.
Finally, the change in the House will significantly decrease the potential for any sort of second round of tax reform, including making the 20% small business tax deduction permanent.
While it is impossible to predict exactly what any new Congress will do, this week’s power shift offers both opportunities and risks. Rest assured that the bipartisan Big “I” federal government affairs team is well prepared to advocate on behalf of independent agents in a divided government.
Wyatt Stewart is Big “I” senior director of federal government affairs.