Democrats seized control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday for the first time in eight years, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported.
The incoming Democratic majority is expected to take steps to increase oversight of President Donald Trump's policies and frustrate Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's agenda. Under Secretary Betsy DeVos, the department has worked to reverse or eliminate key Obama-era guidance and regulations meant to hold colleges accountable for the federal loan debt of their students and for how campuses investigate sexual misconduct, among other things. In January, the agency will also begin the process of rewriting a host of regulations governing accreditation and innovation. Democrats in the House will now be better-positioned to complicate these efforts by pushing to eliminate funding for the department's regulatory actions or holding oversight hearings to highlight conflicts of interest, reported the Chronicle.
With Democrats in control of the House, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) will likely become chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. The ratio of committee members from each party—currently, 22 Republicans and 17 Democrats—will switch, though the numbers may change depending on the size of the Democratic majority. Additionally, the makeup of the committee will likely shift, as well. Historically, approximately one-third of the panelists will be new to the committee, due not only to election wins and losses but also to retirements and new committee assignments.
Meanwhile, Republicans retained their control of the Senate. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will likely remain chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Republicans will have to replace at least one member of the committee due to the retirement of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). Otherwise, few changes to the panel are expected, as all Democratic Senators who were up for reelection won their seats.
The divided Congress will likely make legislating far more challenging. Some education experts remain hopeful that the split Congress will make progress on legislation like the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, according to Politico. However, absent serious progress on a bipartisan agreement in the Senate, a new higher education law is unlikely, especially leading up to the 2020 elections.
The Chronicle of Higher Education