Clearly, November’s mid-term elections were good for Republicans and bad for Democrats, and therefore a tremendous success for the business community, which bet heavily on mainstream GOP candidates. It paid off. Republicans now maintain majorities in the U.S. House and Senate and picked up some governorships (Maryland, my Maryland!) and state legislatures. With presidential candidates beginning to announce their intentions and form campaign teams, the official starting gun has been fired for 2016 when Republicans also will have to defend twenty-four seats to the Democrats’ ten.
Suffice it to say that a lot happened on Election Day 2014 and there’s at best only a two-year window – and maybe half that – to get anything done. So, if Republicans can get out of their own way and team up to overcome President Obama’s activist/progressive lame duck presidency, what might this mean for business in the coming months and years? Only the most ambitious believers anticipate dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and a rollback of Dodd-Frank, but the more realistic among us anticipate changes positive for business in the following areas:
- Taxes – Repeal of the medical-device tax (Senator Hatch: “My top priority”) as well as an overhaul of both the corporate tax (lower the rate) and individual tax codes (lower top personal rates and narrow deductions – good for small business). And also, in the short run, it looks like Congress will extend the recently expired tax breaks.
- Immigration Reform – As usual, this issue is fraught with politics and even more so since the President’s executive actions in early December. Look for attempts early in the new year to fix the legal system so that workers in more sectors are able to apply for visas and employers can count on retaining a legal workforce.
- International Trade – With Harry Reid out of the way, look for congressional approval of trade deals with Asia and Europe. This and fast-track authority could be legacy items for President Obama…making approval more of an uphill climb in the House, of course.
- Data-driven Marketing and Privacy – Addressed insightfully by my colleague Stephanie Miller in her TopRight Corner post, watch for more activity around consumer privacy that will affect all businesses that use consumer data in marketing and service provision.
- Telecommunications – High on the Republican-controlled Senate agenda is a rewrite of the country’s telecommunications laws, especially important as the FCC deals with merger approvals and net neutrality. Ironically, a key player might be Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey, long a leader and expert on telecommunications when he was in the House.
- Energy/Jobs – Approval to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline will happen in the new Congress and it will be up to the President to sign or veto, although Congressional insiders have indicated that GOP leadership might attach Keystone to a veto-proof spending bill.
- Patent Reform – It’s coming (especially litigation reform aimed at patent trolls), but who’s going to take over the pom-poms of Head Cheerleader Rep Lee Terry who lost his re-election bid?