By the Big “I Governmental Affairs Staff
The outcome of the 2016 election has created a significant shift in power in Washington, D.C., with the prospect of major legislation impacting independent insurance agents in the years to come.
For the first time since the 2008 election, one party will control both chambers of Congress and the White House. The election of President Obama in 2008 delivered a Democrat “super majority” of 60 votes in the U.S. Senate and a strong majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, making it easier for Congress to move landmark pieces of legislation.
While Republicans captured the White House this year—and maintained their majorities in both the Senate and the House—they fell well short of the 60-vote “super majority” in the Senate. However, the new Administration and the makeup of the 115th Congress is still expected to impact the association’s legislative priorities in a number of ways.
With Republican control in both chambers and the White House set for early next year, many will push to have a limited lame-duck session this December, empowering Republicans to put their party’s stamp on many big pieces of legislation in 2017. Many expect a busy “First 100 Days” for the new Trump Administration.
With this new power shift, the Big “I” expects that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be a top priority in 2017. The day after the election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) reiterated his expectation that repealing the ACA will be at the top of next year’s agenda. Unlike most pieces of legislation, which require 60 votes to avoid a Senate filibuster, most of the ACA can be repealed through a process called reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes. The Big “I” will continue to guard against harmful changes to the employer-sponsored health care system in ACA replacement legislation.
The Big “I” also expects the Trump Administration to prioritize tax reform. The majority of Big “I” member businesses file at individual tax rates, since they are organized as pass-through entities such as Subchapter S Corporations, Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships. For that reason, the Big “I” believes that the Trump Administration and Congress must address both individual and corporate tax rates in any discussion on tax reform. The Big “I” will continue to push both the Administration and Congress to reform the tax code in a way that provides relief for its small business members, allowing them to thrive in the marketplace.
Republican control of the executive and legislative branches is likely to yield a better legislative environment for businesses, including independent insurance agencies. For example, legislative efforts to temper or rollback regulatory cornerstones of the Obama Administration, such as the Department of Labor (DOL) overtime rule and fiduciary rule, could be on deck. The Big “I” will continue advocating for adjustments to both DOL rules and will issue more compliance information before they take effect on Dec. 1, prior to the new Administration.
Furthermore, Republican oversight of the Federal Insurance Office (FIO) for the first time since the office was created could move the tenor of federal insurance regulatory efforts away from increased federal oversight and change the status of international insurance negotiations. Renewed legislative efforts to change the FIO’s structure are also possible.
Finally, the NFIP is set to expire Sept. 30, 2017, and the Big “I” has been at the forefront of policy discussions as Congress considers a major overhaul of the program. Although the issue of flood insurance tends to hinge on geography rather than political party, many Republicans have advocated for a significant increase in private market involvement. The Big “I” believes the private market has a role to play as a complement to the program—not a replacement. To achieve a timely reauthorization of the NFIP, both sides of the aisle must reach a compromise to ensure the appropriate reforms to the program are made without risking a program lapse.
Charles Symington is Big “I” senior vice president of external and government affairs. Jen McPhillips is Big “I” assistant vice president of federal government affairs. Margarita Tapia is Big “I” director of public affairs. Nathan Riedel is Big “I” vice president of political affairs. Wyatt Stewart is Big “I” senior director of federal government affairs. Jennifer Webb is Big “I” federal government affairs counsel.