After several weeks of negotiations and sometimes very public political maneuvering, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have chosen their respective leaders and committee structures for the 118th Congress. Now that the dust has cleared and the business of Congress has begun, it is critical from an advocacy perspective to understand how ESOPs and the employee ownership community will be affected.
What’s Different About This Congress?
The largest impact by far will be seen in the House of Representatives. A switch from Democratic to Republican control after the November elections means new leadership teams and committee chairs. On the Republican side, Kevin McCarthy (CA) has been elevated from Minority Leader to Speaker of the House, with former Minority Whip Steve Scalise (LA) rising to Majority Leader. House Republicans also elected a new Majority Whip, Tom Emmer (MN). There has also been a major change in Democratic leadership, with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer stepping down from their leadership posts. Hakeem Jeffries (NY) is the new Democratic Leader in the House, with Katherine Clark (MA) serving as the Democratic Whip, the #2 position in the minority.
Regarding committee assignments, the three most important committees with jurisdiction on ESOP issues are the Education and the Workforce, Ways and Means, and the Appropriations Committees. On Education and the Workforce, Virginia Foxx (NC) is the new Chairwoman, while former chairman Bobby Scott (VA) becomes the Ranking Member (the top minority position in congressional committees). The new Ways and Means Chairman is Jason Smith (MO), with former chairman Richard Neal (MA) assuming the role of Ranking Member. And on Appropriations, Chairwoman Kay Granger (TX) leads the committee with former chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (CT) becoming Ranking Member.
In the U.S. Senate, the major committees of jurisdiction for ESOPs are: the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee; the Senate Finance Committee; and the Appropriations Committee. Leadership in the Senate remains largely unchanged as Democrats retained control of the Senate, with the notable exception of longtime ESOP champion Bernie Sanders (I-VT) assuming the chairmanship of the HELP Committee. Senators Wyden (OR) and Crapo (ID) remain the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee, respectively. The Senate Appropriations Committee has a new Chair, Patty Murray (WA) and new Ranking Member, Susan Collins (ME).
Why it Matters
While The ESOP Association achieved significant victories in Congress last year, our advocacy work is far from finished. For example, a new Employee Ownership Initiative to be housed within the Department of Labor was enacted in the year-end omnibus legislation, a major win for ESOPs. However, funding for the initiative must still be secured via the appropriations process in both chambers of Congress. Ensuring the initiative is properly funded and the groundwork laid for the program’s sustainability will require a major advocacy push. Furthermore, although the omnibus legislation also directed the Department of Labor to formalize a rule for the Adequate Consideration Exemption, we must remain vigilant and engage with our elected representatives in Congress to ensure the DOL follows through.
What Can You Do?
A new Congress, with many new members on key committees, is the perfect opportunity to build relationships with your individual Representative and Senators. We must continue to educate our elected representatives on the many benefits of ESOPs to employee owners, our communities, and our national economy.
The best way to get to know your Member of Congress is by inviting them to your ESOP for a tour or to speak with your employee owners. Members love to engage with their constituents, and a company visit allows them to gain a much deeper understanding of why ESOPs are so unique and why they should support legislation and regulations that help our community prosper. TEA has developed a toolkit with everything you need to host a member of Congress.
You can also join the Employee Ownership Action Network, TEA’s national grassroots advocacy movement. It’s free to join, and you’ll get updates when there are major events happening in Congress or your state that impact employee ownership and ESOPs. You will also receive regular newsletters just for EOAN participants with updates from TEA.
You can also get involved in advocacy through your local TEA Chapter. Each Chapter has (or is seeking) an Advocacy Officer, and several chapters have committees dedicated to government relations and advocacy. Getting involved here is a great way to help promote ESOPs.
If you would like to have a more direct impact on TEA’s advocacy activities, please consider a donation our Corporate Council. ESOP PAC is the most effective way for individuals to pool their resources to support elected officials who champion legislation to preserve and strengthen ESOPs in America. TEA’s Corporate Council cannot contribute to candidates, but corporate contributions help to fund our advocacy and legal efforts on behalf of our members.
Lastly, if you have an existing relationship with a Member of Congress, or if you would like to develop one, please join our ESOP Ambassadors program. A personal relationship with your elected official is one of the most powerful advocacy strategies, and by becoming an ESOP Ambassador you can help to shape the future of employee ownership.
With a Democratic Senate and Republican House, it’s more important than ever that we redouble our advocacy efforts to keep ESOP issues at the forefront with our elected representatives – which is why you should attend TEA’s National Conference 2023 in Washington, DC. If you have any questions on how you can help, please give us a call!
Get Involved with One Click
This is TEA’s free-to-join advocate network that helps our membership stay in touch with what’s happening on Capitol Hill. We email you when there’s a need to contact your elected officials, and we’ll send you a quarterly newsletter about what’s happening in Congress. The key to a strong advocacy program is strength in numbers here – so after you sign up, encourage your fellow employee owners and others in the employee ownership movement to join as well.
TEA’s Corporate Council and ESOP PAC
These resources are used to promote TEA’s advocacy efforts. Our Corporate Council supports advocacy efforts through donations of corporate funds, but it can never donate to candidates for office. ESOP PAC takes the donations made by individual members and combines them to support elected officials who support ESOPs and employee ownership. Both funds are critical to our efforts and work in conjunction.
One of the most powerful advocacy strategies is building a personal relationship with lawmakers. ESOP Ambassadors are those with, or willing to build, a relationship with their elected official on behalf of TEA.
Contact TEA Government Relations & Public Affairs
For toolkits, guidance or any other information about TEA Advocacy, please contact Nicole Reppert, Senior Director for Member Engagement and Advocacy, at firstname.lastname@example.org.