Tomorrow, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will become the President and Vice President of the United States, respectively.

And earlier this month, the new Congress (the 117th) convened on January 3, 2021 and will end on January 3, 2023. But, as we have come to expect over the past 10 months, that is where the “typical” ended.

When Congress convened, the Democrats maintained a majority in the House (albeit smaller) and Nancy Pelosi was elected Speaker and Kevin McCarthy was re-elected Minority Leader. Typically, the new Senate leadership would also be installed then. However, while the Republicans maintained the majority in the Senate, Georgia held two special elections for their two Senate seats (also a-typical) two days later, which tipped the balance of power. Both incumbents lost, splitting the Senate evenly, 50-50.  Well, technically not yet. They won’t be sworn in until the state certifies the results, which is expected on January 20. So, the Senate leadership elections and the balance of power won’t change until after they and Vice President-elect Harris are sworn in.

But wait – there is more… Kamala Harris was a U.S. Senator for California until yesterday, and her replacement, Alex Padilla, won’t be sworn in until sometime after the inauguration, likely soon after. That means as I write this, the U.S. Senate is technically 52-47. Once all three Senators are sworn in, the Senate will officially switch party control and, as expected, Senator Chuck Schumer from New York will become the majority leader.

That isn’t all…  In 2001, the Senate was also split 50-50, but then-Vice President Cheney was the tie-breaker, allowing the Republicans to be the majority. Back then – a time when I worked in the U.S. Senate – there was a collegial power-sharing agreement to more evenly split committee assignments, staffing, etc. It remains to be seen what this Congress will bring. The only thing for sure… It won’t be typical.

Now, what does this mean for NFXF Advocacy efforts?

  1. Influence comes from the middle. This has always been the case but is even more pronounced in the Senate this year. The Republicans and Democrats who are willing to work across ideologies and parties to find solutions will become much more influential. The NFXF works hard to be solution-oriented and non-partisan, so this is great news for us.
  2. When a new Congress begins, all of the legislation that didn’t pass is no longer in play and has to be reintroduced. This can take a while, so it can affect how and what we ask for during Advocacy Day 2021. We will still be working hard for Fragile X research funding and will have other legislative asks.
  3. 66 members of Congress are new. That means they haven’t met with Fragile X advocates yet and likely don’t know about Fragile X. Let’s change that!

Our Advocacy Day this year is February 24, 2021. It is virtual, which we hope will be a pandemic positive and allow more advocates to attend and more from states that often aren’t represented because it is both hard to travel to DC and/or have less population. Please join us!

You can register for NFXF Advocacy Day 2021 here. Learn about all of our advocacy efforts here.

Author Dan Whiting

Dan Whiting
Dan served as the NFXF Director of Community Impact from 2017 to 2022. He has over 23 years of experience in public policy and communications, including 11 years as a staff member for a U.S. Senator, in the Bush Administration as Chief of Staff at an agency, and as a senior strategist for communication initiatives across the DOD. During his time at the NFXF, he was passionate about helping individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities live better lives.