Last week, BakerHostetler celebrated the 30th anniversary of its Annual Legislative Seminar. This two-day premier policy showcase in Washington, D.C., allows clients to listen and interact firsthand with key members of the U.S. House and Senate. Led by Federal Policy team leader Mike Ferguson, the seminar featured senior lawmakers who shared a range of policy insights and perspectives.
The evening before the seminar, BakerHostetler hosted firm clients for dinner at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. In honor of the 30th anniversary of this premier program, we were honored to welcome special guest, Vice President of the United States Mike Pence.
The next day, we hosted more than 300 clients for a discussion with a diverse group of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. Ferguson and fellow Senior Advisor Heath Shuler held candid “fireside chats” with their friends and former colleagues on key policy issues and politics.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) is Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, and he also rose to leadership positions during his previous tenure in the House of Representatives. He is conservative, but popular among members on both sides of the aisle. He discussed votes to change Senate rules to expedite approval of President Trump’s nominees. “The President deserves to put his people in place,” Blunt said.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is House Majority Leader who is known as a key link to Republicans. He gave a positive review of the freshman class that helped sweep Democrats back to majority status in the House of Representatives, saying that there is “not a single weak link” among the members. He made the case that the Democratic caucus has moved to the center, pointing to 125 New Democrats and 25 Blue Dogs who support pro-business policies.
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) is a new member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and a co-chair of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate Democrats. Often identified as a rising star in her party, Murphy told the compelling story of her family’s journey to the United States as refugees from Vietnam. When asked about the progressive ideology of some in the freshman class of Democrats, Murphy said she is a “proud capitalist” who rejects the current conversation surrounding socialism.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) is a member of the Senate Commerce Committee known for his 37 years of service in the House of Representatives and for his expertise on energy and telecommunications issues. He is the author of the Green New Deal, telling seminar participants that it is “not just a resolution, but a revolution.” He noted the job growth in various sectors of the renewable energy industry, like wind, solar, natural gas and electric vehicles.
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is a former CIA officer and a member the House Intelligence Committee, an important moderate voice whose 29-county congressional district is the size of the state of Georgia. He said the most critical challenge for the U.S. and the West is control of future technologies, like artificial intelligence and the 5G network. Hurd predicted that technological change will dramatically accelerate in the coming years.
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) is an educator known for straight talk who is now the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee. Noting $1.4 trillion in outstanding student debt and 7 million unfilled jobs in the U.S., Foxx said, “We are not fulfilling the promise of postsecondary education.” Addressing skyrocketing tuition fees, Foxx called for people to be “more focused on skills and less focused on degrees.”
Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) is the top Republican on the House Financial Services Capital Markets Subcommittee, with jurisdiction over exchanges and the securities industry. Keeping up with financial technology is a priority for the Financial Services Committee Republicans. Huizenga’s goal is to provide needed guardrails without stifling innovation, observing that “the speed of government is not the speed of business.” Top priority in this area is setting out a legislative and regulatory approach to cryptocurrency.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) won his seat in 2012. Having grown up in poverty, Scott champions his “Opportunity Agenda,” and he promoted national opportunity zones, a tax-advantaged tool for economic development. He took issue with President Trump’s trade policies, especially auto tariffs, saying that the “ricochet effect never goes away.” Scott argued that once the supply chain is altered, it will be difficult to restore lost jobs.
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) is the Majority Whip, the third-ranking Democrat in the House. Clyburn focuses on federal policies that will lift rural areas. He told seminar participants that America is already great, but the challenge is to make greatness apply equally in all areas of American life, including education, housing, employment, and health care. He spends his time working to achieve accessibility and affordability for services like broadband access and rural hospitals.
Rep . John Yarmuth (D-KY) is Chairman of the House Budget Committee and one of Congress’s best golfers. Yarmuth told seminar attendees about current budget battles on Capitol Hill, which could culminate in a House floor vote next week. By raising the budget caps, Yarmuth said he hopes to stop extreme budget cuts that would otherwise be required by law. He called the White House a “wild card” and said it did not want a budget deal with Congress now.
Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) is the senior Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, known for his expertise in energy, healthcare and telecommunications policy. Walden called for a “free, viable, and fair internet” and for reducing the federal role as it relates to the web. On privacy, he said that consumers want more control over their data. In Walden’s view, Europe’s effort to lead with a new privacy regime (GDPR) is causing businesses to simply opt out of Europe.
Jim Ellis, of Jim Ellis Insights, is a nonpartisan political analyst and forecaster of federal and state campaigns. He discussed the quickly expanding field of presidential candidates vying to challenge President Trump in 2020. Analyzing fundraising, organization and many other factors, Ellis sees strength in the candidacies of Sen. Kamala Harris, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Ellis said he expects one other candidate to break through to the top tier, perhaps former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker or former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke.