November 5, 2014 Election Update

Overview

Republicans made significant gains across the country in yesterday's mid-term elections, picking up 7 seats in the United States Senate to gain control of the chamber.  After recounts and runoffs, Republicans will have a nine or ten vote majority in the Senate come January.  In the House, Republicans picked up at least 13 seats, with more gains likely in races that are still too close to call.  This new political environment is an opportunity for Northeastern to work with Congress on issues ranging from higher education policy to our research priorities related to health, security and sustainability.  At the same time, we will have some work to do to build relationships with new members who represent our three campuses.

Impact on Federal Higher Education Policy

Among those re-elected yesterday was Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who will be the next chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pentions Committee.  Se. Alexander will be an ally in crafting a rewrite of the Higher Education Act that is less focused on new regulations. House Education and orkforce chairman John Kline (R-MN), who had been thought to be in a tight race, also cruised to victory.  However, a former college administrator and strong advocate for co-op serving on the House Education Committee, six term Re. Tim Bishop (D-NY), was handily defeated in his eastern Long Island District.

Research Funding

Before the new Congress takes over in the New Year, the current Congress will attempt to pass an FY 15 Omnibus appropriations bill to fund all the federal agencies including those that fund research.  In this "lame duck" session the Appropriations Committees from the two houses will need to resolve their differences on specific top-line funding levels for the 12 annual spending bills. At this time it is not clear they will be able to pass such a bill in this short window before Congress leaves for the year.  If not they will simply pass a Continuing Resolution (CR), which will keep the government open until some time next year.  The Current CR expires on December 11, 2014. According to published reports the Appropriations Committees are close to a deal on an Omnibus appropriations package, but the political fall out from the election may prevent Congress from Passing it.

Massachusetts

Congress

Senator Ed Markey was re-elected to a full term in the United States Senate.  While most members of the congressional delegation were uncontested, Democrat Seth Moulton handily defeated former State Senator Richard Tisei in 6th District, which includes our campuses in Nahant and Burlington.  As we mentioned in September, Rep. John Tierney had been a high-ranking member of the House Education Committee.  With the Higher Education Act coming up for reauthorization, we will wait to see if a new Massachusetts member gets appointed to the committee.  In the Ninth District, Rep. Bill Keating, with whom we have worked closely on cybersecurity and homeland security research issues, fought off a tough challenge.  Rep. Niki Tsongas was also reelected.

Governor

After a long night of counting, Charlie Baker narrowly prevailed over Attorney General Martha Coakley in the Governor's race.  Baker has family ties to Northeastern (his father was a professor in the D’Amore McKim School of Business) and has praised our co-op model and said he hopes to get the state college and university system to adopt it. 

 

Attorney General

Northeastern School of Law graduate Maura Healey received the second-most votes statewide on the way to easily defeating Republican John Miller in her bid to become the next Attorney General.   Similarly, NUSL alumna Maggie Hassan easily won her reelection as Governor of New Hampshire.  

North Carolina

Senator Kay Hagan (D) narrowly lost her bid for re-election to Thom Tillman, the Speaker of the North Carolina State House.  We had worked with Senator Hagan on defense research programs as a member of the Armed Services committee.  Our Charlotte campus sits in the 12th Congressional district, which was won by Alma Adams, a Democratic member of the State House from Greensboro.  Virginia Foxx, a former college administrator who chairs the Higher Education Subcommittee of the House Education & Workforce Committee, was handily reelected to her suburban Charlotte district.

Washington State

Our Seattle Campus sits in the 7th district and is represented by long-term Congressman Jim McDermott who won 79% of the vote. Senator Patty Murray (D) won’t be up for reelection until 2016.  She is likely to be the next Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee.

Conclusion

With Republicans in control of both branches of Congress, the opportunities for legislative compromise with President Obama may improve in the short term.   That said, there is reason to be concerned about the federal funding outlook, particular for agency research accounts, with the return of budget sequestration looming.   We will now be reaching out to new members who represent our three campuses to educate them about Northeastern's capabilities that match up with their policy priorities.