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2012 Election Report (continued)

The U.S. Senate

The Democrats fared better than expected in the Senate and will retain control of the chamber. Despite picking up a few seats, this will result in a status quo environment with the Senate unable to pass much legislation. Holding only a simple majority of the 100 Senate seats, they fall short of the 60 votes that are needed to pass most legislation. One caveat: Democrats in the Senate have one chance to alter the filibuster at the start of the session, potentially lowering the number of votes needed to sustain a filibuster.

While only 1/3 of Senators were up for re-election, we saw some big results. In Nebraska, retiring Senator Ben Nelson, a former insurance commissioner, was one of the lone seats that switched parties. Sen. Nelson was a strong supporter of the industry and was well liked in the state, until he made a special deal for his vote in the passing of the ACA. Despite losing Sen. Nelson, PIA looks forward to working with Senator-elect Deb Fischer.

In Mississippi, a strong advocate of the National Flood Insurance Program, Sen. Roger Wicker, won re-election. The Senator has long supported the program but has ferociously tried to include wind coverage into the NFIP, something that PIA opposes. Sen. Wicker has been great to work with and PIA looks forward to working on common goals with the Senator.

The partisanship in Washington prompted a majority of voters in Maine to elect an Independent candidate, Angus King, to the Senate. The former governor of Maine has publically supported the ACA and will likely caucus with the Democrats.

Important pieces of legislation could die before the Senate, as they have in the past. Notably, legislation that could exempt insurance agent compensation from the new MLR restrictions will have a hard time getting through the Senate, despite overwhelming support in the House of Representatives.

Other measures could face a similar fate. The Farm Bill, which expired on September 30, 2012 and would make reforms to the crop insurance program, includes funding for food stamps. The funding of food stamps is a philosophical difference between Democratic majority of the Senate and the Republican majority of the House. Regardless of being completely unrelated to crop insurance, these types of partisan differences could stall many insurance-related pieces of legislation.

When the Senate does pass legislation, it’s not always in a straightforward manner. For example, the recent five-year National Flood Insurance Program extension was passed as part of a lengthy transportation and infrastructure bill. PIA’s priority in the Senate will be finding where the common ground is, while exploring tactical ways to pass legislation that is key to the success of the agent work force.

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