The elections came in just as the prognosticators had predicted. So what does it mean for cattle producers? First it is important to remember that the majorities are extremely small. And, while the majority of the new Democrats ran as extremely conservative Democrats, it's not the size of the majority or the makeup of the majority that's important it's the majority status that conveys tremendous political power. While the voters may have elected candidates like Heath Shuler, an ultra conservative Democrat, they essentially elected Nancy Pelosi to the position of House speaker, etc.
Every committee chair and every committee agenda will change. The ironic thing is that while the race was dominated by foreign policy issues, this is an area that's largely a presidential role. Certainly, the Congress controls the purse strings, but reality says they have very little control in this area.
The extension of the tax cuts and the repeal of the Death Tax are now officially dead at least for a couple of years. Trade issues, the environment and even endangered species and will take a momentous shift.
Still in terms of bigger picture items like the 2007 Farm Bill, there isn't expected to be a radical shift overall but the issues that appeal to smaller subsets like packer concentration and captive supply issues will likely find a more receptive audience. Nevertheless, history tells us that what we can expect with a divided government, with narrow majorities, and a lame-duck President without tremendous popularity is essentially nothing.
Instead, after both sides respond with their noble rhetoric about working together to achieve something, we will see positioning for the 2008 election year to begin almost immediately. President Bush has only vetoed one bill in the last six years. That's not surprising as he's been dealing with a Republican controlled Congress. We can expect the cap on the veto pen to come off early and often as both sides posture for 2008.
If the Democrats carry their momentum forward in 2008 that's when we'll see the quantum changes and the huge differences in ideology emerge. To see much more than a small change in the minimum wage over the next couple of years will be dramatic, and sadly that is the best case scenario for both sides, in what promises to be the most momentous election of our time in 2008.
-- Troy Marshall