Republicans Already Looking Toward 2016 Elections

Although the 114th Congress does not convene until Tuesday, January 6, the GOP is already preparing for what is expected to be a difficult election year in 2016. After only having recently regained the majority as a result of November’s midterm elections, Republicans will have 24 seats up for reelection in 2016, compared to the Democrats’ 10. Seven of the Republican seats up for reelection are in states that President Obama has carried twice. Republicans such as Sen. Mark Kirk (Ill.) are preparing for a close race in the 2016 presidential election year. Kirk was only narrowly reelected in 2010 and will likely face a much more Democratic electorate in 2016. Sen. Marco Rubio’s Florida seat would be in danger of becoming a tossup if Rubio decides to run for the presidency. Other vulnerable Republicans include Sen. Ron Johnson (Wis.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (Pa.), who hail from democratic leaning states in presidential election years. Sen. Kelly Ayotte’s home state of New Hampshire is more of a swing state, but Sen. Ayotte will likely have a tough race ahead of her, especially if Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) decides to run in opposition. While Democrats won’t have any senators facing reelection in red states, Minority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) is expected to face a strong challenge for his Senate seat. Reid’s approval numbers are low in his home state of Nevada, and he will face a particularly difficult race if popular Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) decides to run against him. Republicans enter the 114th Congress with a 54 seat majority in the Senate, a net gain of nine seats from the November election. The vulnerability of the GOP Senate majority in the next election cycle, however, could impact the Republican agenda over the next two years.

Veterans' Affairs Committees to Prioritize Access to Care

Leadership of the congressional Veterans’ Affairs committees plan to prioritize the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-146) during the 114th Congress. The legislation was passed in July of 2014, and is aimed at increasing veterans’ access to health care. It came as a result of the Veterans Health Administration scandal in last year, which found systematic lying by the administration about the wait times experienced by veterans in line to receive care. Such wait times resulted in the death of 35 veterans awaiting care in Phoenix, Ariz. The bill authorizes the creation of 27 new Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities. It also allows for the care of veterans at non-VA hospitals and clinics. Chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) has stated his intent to make the implementation and oversight of this law the sole focus of his Committee.

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