Politics

Vulnerable House Republicans Head Into Midterm Recess With Parting Gifts

Half of GOP incumbents in danger of losing seats got floor votes this month on bills they sponsored

Rep. Steve Knight, R-Calif., who’s facing a tough re-election, has two of his bills on the House floor this week. Other vulnerable Republicans are also getting votes on their bills before they depart for the midterm campaign recess. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As the House prepares to wrap up its fall legislative business this week before going on recess for the duration of the midterm campaign season, half of the vulnerable Republican incumbents will be leaving with parting gifts. 

Those gifts come in the form of floor votes on bills they have authored. By the end of the week, 28 of the 57 House Republicans whose seats are considered in play this cycle, according to Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales, are set to go home with the chamber having voted this month on at least one of their bills. 

The House was not supposed to adjourn for the midterms until after the first two weeks of October. While no changes to that schedule have been announced as yet, several Republican lawmakers and aides say they expect GOP leaders to cancel next month’s sessions to have their members out on the campaign trail the entire month leading into the Nov. 6 elections.

ICYMI: 12 House Ratings Changes — Democrats Are More Likely Than Not to Win Majority

This week alone, the House is scheduled to vote on bills sponsored by 17 vulnerable GOP incumbents.

Most of the bills are being brought to the floor under suspension of the rules, a fast-track process that requires two-thirds support for passage. That means they’ll need to have bipartisan support to get through.

But three of the bills the House is voting on this week — all part of the GOP’s “Tax Reform 2.0” effort — are expected to draw mostly Republican support and are being brought to the floor under the normal rules process. That means the measures can pass with only Republican simple-majority support, but they also have less margin for error.

The keynote bill, the so-called Protecting Family and Small Business Tax Cuts Act by Illinois GOP Rep. Rodney Davis, would make permanent all of the individual tax cuts Congress approved in its overhaul last year.

The individual provisions are set to expire after 2025 without congressional action. House Republicans hope that taking early action to make those tax cuts permanent will blunt criticisms that the tax law was designed to favor wealthy corporations over small businesses and middle-class families. 

Davis is one of many House Republicans who have been touting the GOP tax law in their re-elections. Inside Elections rates his race against Democratic businesswoman Betsy Dirksen Londrigan Leans Republican.

The other bills that are part of the Tax 2.0 effort are Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Kelly’s so-called Family Savings Act, which would make tax law changes designed to encourage retirement savings, and a measure by Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, known as the American Innovation Act, which would expand a tax deduction for startup businesses. 

Inside Elections rates both Kelly’s race against Marine veteran Ron DiNicola and Buchanan’s matchup against lawyer David Shapiro as Likely Republican. 

Perfect timing?

While it’s not incredibly difficult for members to get a bill on the suspension calendar, the floor timing of some of the bills certainly seems designed to give incumbents some bragging rights.

For example, Virginia Rep. Scott Taylor introduced legislation with a few colleagues in February to help local law enforcement officials use commercial media outlets to broadcast missing-person alerts. The so-called Ashanti Alert Act, which will get a floor vote this week, is named after Ashanti Billie, who was abducted last year from her job on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Taylor, who represents part of Norfolk, faces Navy veteran Elaine Luria in a race Inside Elections rates Leans Republican.

California Rep. Steve Knight, who faces nonprofit executive Katie Hill in a Tilts Republican race, has two bills on the floor this week. 

One of the measures would amend existing law to allow seasonal National Park Service employees to work at multiple federal parks, instead of one at a time. Knight’s district includes the northern part of the San Fernando Valley, which includes nature preserves the service maintains as public parkland.

Knight’s other bill would allow small businesses to report their average earnings, a requirement for certain assistance from the Small Business Administration, over five years instead of three.

Another vulnerable Republican with two bills on this week’s floor schedule is Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. Inside Elections rates his race against lawyer Colin Allred a Toss-up.

Sessions is getting a vote on a sense of Congress resolution related to child safety in court proceedings over family custody and visitations, as well as a bill to allow the Department of Homeland Security to establish border tunnel task forces in jurisdictions facing cross-border tunnel-related security threats. Sessions’ suburban Dallas district is hundreds of miles from the Mexican border.

Leader’s choice

Another member benefiting from this week’s floor schedule is the lawmaker in charge of setting it, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. While the California Republican is highly favored to win re-election, he faces a contentious race after the midterms to replace Speaker Paul D. Ryan as the top House GOP leader. 

McCarthy has two bills on the suspension calendar this week on cybersecurity and innovation issues he’s long championed. He is also bringing a resolution to the floor under a rule that “recognizes that allowing illegal immigrants the right to vote devalues the franchise and diminishes the voting power of United States citizens.”

“I hope my colleagues will stand with me in protecting the right to vote for every American citizen of legal age, and rejecting all outside or foreign interference in our elections,” he said in a statement.

This week’s floor schedule “represents the robust effort to keep America moving forward,” McCarthy spokeswoman Erin Perrine said in a statement when asked about the scheduling of the majority leader’s bills and the ones sponsored by vulnerable GOP incumbents. “The House this session has been a legislative powerhouse.”

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.