What’s in Store for the 116th Congress

With the 116th Congress sworn into office, the House of Representatives is one of the most diverse federal legislative bodies in history. These changes could bring a variety of outcomes for the music products industry. While only time will tell, here is a brief overview provided with thanks to our collaboration with Leo Coco, NAMM’s advocacy advisor at D.C.-based firm Nelson Mullens.

House of Representatives

Democrats now have control of the House, holding 235 seats, 41 seats higher than the 115th Congress. Republicans maintain 199 seats, having lost 42 seats. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was re-elected as the Speaker of the House, and notably, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) is the new chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) was a key proponent of the bi-partisan Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. Rep. Scott and the committee he chairs are important to NAMM’s advocacy efforts to
fully fund the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant (Title IV Part A), a key element of ESSA that seeks to advance well-rounded education opportunities for all children.

Senate

In the Senate, Republicans hold 53 seats, increasing their majority by two seats. A significant change to the Senate’s education agenda is not anticipated. However, the long-time chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and NAMM SupportMusic Champion awardee, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), has announced that this will be his final term in the Senate. Support for full funding of the Title IV grant program will be an ongoing request to Senate HELP Committee members along with support for music teacher training policies as they are addressed in the Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization.

Priorities of the 116th Congress

Unlike the last two years, the House and Senate are politically divided in the 116th Congress. This is likely to mean more oversight of the administration by the House and deepening tensions between Congress and executive government branches leading up to the 2020 Presidential Election. It is conceivable, however, that the divided Congress could lead to more bipartisan activities and discrete opportunities could emerge if House Democrats and President Trump work together on issues including infrastructure, vocational education/ apprenticeships, early childhood education or paid family leave.

What does this mean for NAMM and its ongoing music education advocacy efforts?
There are 92 new members of the US House of Representatives, which is about 20% of the total number. This also means that there are new chiefs of staff and office directors for constituent relations, along with education and cultural liaisons. In our ongoing advocacy efforts, and at our Washington D.C. Advocacy Fly-In the last week of May, we will introduce them to NAMM and inform them of our ongoing policy and funding priorities to advance music education for every child. We will be paying special attention to the newest members of the education and appropriations committees in both the House and Senate. Along with many congressional champions for music education, we will bring these new members of Congress into a unified chorus that celebrates and reinforces the role that music making and music education has in our communities.

There are two things every NAMM member can do now.

1. Contact your regional office of your member of Congress–both congressional district and Senate–and make sure they know who you are, what your business does to support the musical life in your community and region; ask to receive ongoing updates from the office, and if possible, encourage the member to visit your business. (It is also important that your state legislature, city council, mayor know you and your business!) For information on contacting elected officials, visit www.namm.org/issues-and-advocacy.

2. Get involved at your state capital–information is available at NAMM’s Coalition on Coalitions. While the future remains uncertain, we know that NAMM and its members will continue to champion music education and ensure that all people can learn and grow with music.

Mary Luehrsen
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS