Disability Policy News In Brief

January 7, 2019

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January 7, 2019   |   Vol. MMXIX, Issue 1
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116th Congress

The One Hundred Sixteenth United States Congress is the current meeting of the legislative branch of the Federal government of the United States, composed of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, meeting in Washington, D.C., from January 3, 2019, to January 3, 2021.


The new Congress includes 100 non-incumbent winners creating the most diverse federal legislature to date. As of the swearing in on January 3rd, the Senate was at 99 members, with Florida Senator-elect Rick Scott remaining in his current role as Florida Governor until Governor-elect Ron DeSantis is sworn in on January 8th.  The House numbered 434, with the seat representing North Carolina's 9th Congressional district not yet filled following allegations of election fraud.

  • The 116th Congress includes a record of women - 127 - with 102 in the House and 25 in the Senate. 
  • At least 24 of the new members elected to the House this cycle are Hispanic, Native American and other people of color, including Sharice Davids (KS-03) and Debra Haaland (NM-01), the first two Native American women elected to Congress. 
  • Ilhan Omar (MN-05) and Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) are the first two Muslim American women elected to Congress.
  • At least 19 members of the incoming class have served in the military. Six served in the Army, 11 in the Navy and two in the Air Force.
  • There are at least five medical professionals joining Congress: three doctors (John Joyce PA-13, Mark Green TN-7, Kim Schrier, WA-8), one dentist (Jeff Van Drew NJ-2) and one nurse (Lauren Underwood, IL-14).



The incoming Democratic majority in the House elected Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12) to be the new Speaker. Representatives Steny Hoyer (D-MD-5) and Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6) will be the Majority Leader and Majority Whip respectively. All three held the same positions during the last Democrat-controlled Congress.

Representative Ben Ray Luján (D-NM-3) will be Assistant Democratic Leader, having steered the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) successfully through last year's midterm elections. Meanwhile, House Republicans will be led by the new Minority Leader, Representative Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23).

The change in party control of the House brings Democratic chairpersons to lead committees. The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee has officially nominated these representatives to lead the key committees below:

  • House Appropriations Committee: Representative Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-13) 
  • House Committee on Energy and Commerce: Representative Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ-6)
  • House Committee on Financial Services: Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA-43
  • House Committee on Ways and Means: Representative Richard E. Neal (D-MA-1)

The full Democratic caucus is expected to approve the committee leadership selections.


Republican Leadership:

  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY); Whip John Thune (SD); Conference Chair John Barrasso (WY)

Democratic Leadership:

  • Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (NY); Whip Dick Durbin (IL); Assistant Leader Patty Murray (WA)

Key Committee Chairs:

  • Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions - Lamar Alexander (TN) 
  • Appropriations - Richard Shelby (AL)
  • Special Committee on Aging - Susan Collins (ME)

The start of the new Congress is the ideal time to build relationships with your congressional delegation. Join AUCD in contacting Congress.

Action Steps:

Visit https://www.congress.gov/members to identify your Representative and both of your Senators

  • Send them an email introducing yourself and sharing your background and priorities 
  • Sign up to receive their Congressional e-newsletter
  • Follow them on the social media platforms that you are active on


As of January 7th, the federal government remains partially shut down amid a continued impasse over funding for a border wall. A Continuing Resolution that would have expired on Feb. 8 was passed by the Senate on December 19th to fund the remaining 25% of the federal budget, including a provision to renew Money Follows the Person (MFP) funding for three months and to extend spousal impoverishment protections to Medicaid HCBS participants. The House then passed a Continuing Resolution that also included a provision to renew MFP funding for three months and extends spousal impoverishment protections to Medicaid HCBS participants, but also included funding for President Trump's proposed border wall, and failed to garner support in the Senate.
On January 3rd, the House passed two bills to fully fund the government but did not include any additional funds for the wall. Neither has yet been taken up by the Senate.


Tuesdays with Liz: Disability Policy for All

With the 116th Congress in session as of January 3, 2019, Liz wants YOU to know there is no reason to be scared of contacting your Congressperson! Here, she reminds you to feel comfortable about sharing your story and advocating yourself, and how you can contact your Congressperson.

You can check out AUCD's Contacting Congress Tool here.



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For definitions of terms used in In Brief, please see AUCD's Glossary of Legislative Terms 

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