After voters called for sweeping change in the November 2018 election, people across the nation eagerly awaited the official arrival of our new Congress. And after last week’s swearing-in of the 116th Congress, the wait is finally over.
I travelled down to Washington D.C. on behalf of Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy to congratulate candidates who are now members of Congress. I also wanted to get a sense of what policy issues we can expect to hear debated over the next two years.
It was mystifying to walk through buildings that house such rich history and traditions – juxtaposed with a younger, vibrant and more diverse electorate. The new House member swearing-in receptions allowed the general public to engage with elected officials and their staff. In addition to friends, family and staff, the halls were bustling with advocacy groups speaking on behalf of issues ranging from environmental protections to gun safety to health care reform.
As Ceisler Media is a statewide firm, my specific goal was to get to know our Pennsylvania Congressional delegation. I was able to see returning Representatives such as Congressmen Conor Lamb (D- Allegheny County) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R – Bucks County), while also getting to know fresh faces such as Congresswomen Madeleine Dean (D – Montgomery County) and Mary Gay Scanlon (D – Delaware County).
There was talk of specific issues such an immigration and health care – issues that the 115th Congress had discussed and the new Congress would like to continue working on. Days before the swearing in – the government was shut down over a disputed border wall funding. This pretense set the stage for the new Congress, not just about issues of appropriations and immigration, but how one presents themselves in uncharted territory. Some members chose to address these issues head-on by talking to supporters or their social media following about their differences with the administration and plans to address these concerns. Some members chose to speak about bipartisanship and compromise, going for a more diplomatic approach.
We will likely see a range of methods for addressing issues as well as a range of issues themselves. As I bustled around the hallways and spoke with elected officials, I heard talk about gun safety, environmentalism, LGBTQ rights, student loan debt, immigration reform and more. Some members speak of these issues as representatives of their respective party, some speak in a response to national or district dialogues and some speak with expert to their backgrounds. In addition to these personal issues, there was also talk of potential 2020 Presidential candidates – candidates who also bring specific policies and solutions to the table which will likely dictate a dialogue and potential legislation.
Pennsylvania’s delegation has dramatically changed because these elected officials campaigned in the newly-drawn districts. Regardless of whether these members of Congress have served for 10 years or 10 days, all are in new territory which will dictate specific policies they may support or oppose.
Overall, the energy on opening day was high and the passion insurmountable. With an array of issues being tackled by our delegation and an array of issues we represent at Ceisler Media, I look forward to continuing to work with this group of Pennsylvanians.
Max Weisman is a Senior Associate in Ceisler Media's Philadelphia office.