A new Congress takes power in January facing profound challenges for the US economy and global markets including the threat of a debt-limit crisis and the need to rein in cryptocurrencies after the spectacular collapse of Sam Bankman-Fried’s firm.
Lawmakers from both parties will also wrestle with calls to keep the capricious billionaire Elon Musk in check, while seeking ways to match the rising clout of a resurgent China determined to absorb Taiwan one day. Debates over persistent inflation, abortion, gun violence and threats to democracy will also punctuate the next two years.
With Republicans now taking control of the House, Capitol Hill power brokers will have to navigate divided government to overcome entrenched hostilities and cut deals that will affect the economy and US society for a generation.
Bloomberg has identified 10 lawmakers based on their legislative track records, stature in their political parties and areas of expertise as well as their ability to get things done. Some are veterans and others are rising stars. Half of them are Republican, and half Democrats — reflecting the current split in Congress.
At least one is an emerging presidential contender. Another is rehabilitating her reputation after a fumble that sidelined her hopes for a top House post. Many are fierce fundraisers who handily won reelection. And one survived a runoff that ultimately handed a decisive defeat to former President Donald Trump.
What do they all have in common? These are not necessarily household names but we expect they will be one day. They reflect the increasing diversity on Capitol Hill. And behind every deal cut in Congress that business cares about, they likely will have played a key role.
Bloomberg presents to you: “The 10 US Lawmakers the World Needs to Watch in 2023”.
Each year, we’ll be back with your must-read guide to the Capitol Hill personalities whose influence can be felt beyond the Beltway. In the meantime, we will regularly revisit our cast of characters to see what impact they’ve had.
Rep. Vern Buchanan
As one of the richest members of Congress, Buchanan brings a decidedly pro-business bent to Ways and Means, the committee responsible for tax, trade and health-care policy at a time many other Republicans find themselves at odds with Corporate America over environmental and social policies.
Buchanan’s personal wealth is largely tied to his ownership of several car dealerships, as well as smaller stakes in other companies. “I’d rather buy businesses and help people be successful,” Buchanan said in a December interview. “It’s a lot more fun than just buying some stocks in the S&P 500.”
Buchanan was instrumental in securing tax breaks for small business owners in the 2017 Trump tax law, which included a special deduction for owners of pass-through entities, including limited partnerships, S corporations and limited liability companies. That’s a legacy that he’s keen to extend, with many of those tax breaks expiring in the coming years.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help American businesses get to the next level,” said Buchanan, who is facing a challenge for the Ways and Means Committee’s top job.
During the last two years, Buchanan sponsored 21 pieces of legislation, nearly a quarter of which focused on taxation. As of Nov. 28, Buchanan had raised more than $4.6 million in the 2022 election cycle, with much of that money coming from real estate, insurance, and pharmaceutical industries.
Buchanan, 71, says his business prowess is what makes him uniquely qualified to lead a committee that will face the expiration of the Trump tax cuts and the need to creatively craft trade deals with key allies, including the UK and EU. The tax-writing panel is also looking for ways to combat Chinese influence in the developing world.
Buchanan, from port-heavy Florida, has a pro-free trade perspective, a stance that has the potential to put him at odds with some of the isolationist factions within his party. “As a business owner, when I’m looking to invest, I want to know who’s running the state, the legislature, the country. Are they the wind in my back or the wind in my face?” Buchanan said. “What we do in Washington makes such a big difference to small and large businesses here and abroad.” —Laura Davison
Rep. Patrick McHenry
Faced with the prospect of a narrow House majority, McHenry says he’s looking for bipartisan opportunities, including on cryptocurrency, as he prepares to take the Financial Services gavel. Whether it’s updating data privacy standards, building consensus on capital formation initiatives or “giving legislative form and definition to digital assets,” he says, “I think we have viable opportunities to get a work product enacted into law.”
The FTX collapse hasn’t dimmed McHenry’s enthusiasm for digital currency, although he doesn’t personally have any crypto holdings. He sees crypto as “foundation stone of the next internet.”
McHenry, 47, has blasted the Biden administration for enacting policies by regulatory fiat that they have been unable to get through Congress, including Securities and Exchange Commission proposals that would force hedge funds and private equity firms to reveal more about their fees, and would require companies to make detailed environmental, social and governance disclosures.
He has also taken aim at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a political lightning rod since its creation following the 2008 financial crisis, after the agency bolstered its enforcement program and changed some exam criteria under Director Rohit Chopra. “We will make it clear to them the confines of the law that they should be operating under,” McHenry said.
McHenry’s national stature has risen as he has waged these regulatory battles, a fact underscored by his fundraising reach. By Nov. 28, he had raised nearly $5.4 million in the 2022 election cycle, with his top donors coming from the securities and investment, insurance and banking industries.
McHenry, who first came to Congress in 2005, has opted to forgo a leadership position in the next Congress so he can lead Financial Services. He had been eyed for Republican whip, the chief vote counter in the caucus. “I’m more optimistic about my positive effect, on outcomes, than serving as whip,” he said in an interview. —Billy House and Madison Mills
Rep. Kay Granger
As she takes the gavel of the Appropriations Committee, Granger will be under intense pressure from House Freedom Caucus conservatives to use any means possible to cut domestic spending, rein in the Internal Revenue Service and fund a border wall, the same issue that caused a 35-day shutdown in 2019. The genteel former Fort Worth mayor and 25-year veteran of the House admits to becoming more conservative over the years. But she is no firebrand and said she prefers to make a deal.
Granger, 79, said the $1.7 trillion in annual government spending has to be reduced and funding shifted toward security and defense. She said trips to the US-Mexico border to educate lawmakers about the level of insecurity there can lead to a meeting of minds.
“We are just spending way too much,” Granger said. “Our border is in a crisis, our defense is in a crisis.”
Granger recently voted against two routine stopgap bills even though failure to pass them would have caused shutdowns. She also sat out discussions on a December omnibus spending package, backing House GOP leaders who demanded Congress delay decisions on fiscal 2023 spending until next year. The moves stuck out because Granger has generally been a deal-maker who can strike bargains with the current panel chair, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut. She talked fondly of her friendship with former Democratic chair Nita Lowey, calling her one of her best friends.
Granger, whose power to get bills approved was enhanced when Republicans voted in December to keep earmarks, said she will work to avoid government shutdowns next year. Her wariness stems in part from the effect on the US military and its contractors. Granger’s district is home to employees working in major north Texas facilities for top defense contractor Lockheed Martin, the maker of the F-35 warplane, and Bell Textron, a key supplier of helicopters. Not surprisingly, the top donors in her $2.2 million fundraising haul were from the air transport and defense industries. —Erik Wasson
Sen. Lisa Murkowski
As Alaska’s senior senator, Murkowski has been deeply involved in public land issues as well as a staunch defender of her home state’s oil and gas industry, including playing a pivotal role in Congress’s move in 2017 to lift a 40-year-old ban on oil drilling in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
But Murkowski’s unique perspective representing a state on the forefront of climate change has led her to support putting a price on carbon among other positions to the left of her party on global warming. That could put her in the mix for any bipartisan energy and climate deal.
In terms of fundraising, oil and gas was only Murkowski’s third highest donor by industry, contributing some $537,000 to her campaign over the last six years.
“She is a climate realist,” said McKie Campbell, who served as staff director for the Senate Energy Committee under Murkowski. “She believes the effects on climate that are happening are substantial, caused by humans, and there are quite a number of steps we need to be taking to fight those changes.”
The Alaska Republican supports abortion rights and was one of seven Republicans to vote to convict former President Donald Trump in his 2021 impeachment trial. Her independent streak – and willingness to take on party leaders – will make her a power player on both politics and policy in a divided government.
Murkowski, 65, beat Kelly C. Tshibaka, a Republican challenger backed by former President Donald Trump, in a runoff. But she’s no stranger to tough election fights. Murkowski won a historic write-in campaign in the 2010 general election after losing in the Republican primary. She still wears a gold version of the bracelet her campaign handed out by the thousands to help voters remember how to spell her name correctly.
“Alaska is no stranger to interesting elections,” Murkowski told CBS News after her election victory in November. “We are mightily independent.” —Ari Natter
Sen. Tim Scott
Several Senate Republicans are talking Scott up as a potentially strong presidential contender, with the No. 2 GOP senator — John Thune — saying he “offers a lot” to any emerging field. That includes prolific fundraising, with a campaign and leadership PAC that has totaled $54 million over the last six years. His Opportunity Matters Fund spent more than $6 million on TV ads aiding 2022 GOP candidates
Scott ducks questions from reporters in the Capitol, and his press shop says they won’t comment on his presidential ambitions. Whether or not he launches a presidential bid, Scott’s profile rises as he becomes ranking Republican on the Senate Banking Committee.
Scott, 57, is giving top priority to pushing back on so-called “corporate activism.” At a committee hearing this year, he lambasted the CEOs of Wells Fargo, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs for signing onto a statement opposing “discriminatory legislation” amid a progressive backlash against a Georgia election law. He also is skeptical of new bank and securities regulations over concerns they could boost costs and curb access to credit.
Scott grew up in poverty and was raised by a single working mom, leading him to propose “opportunity zones” that use tax incentives to lure investment to poor neighborhoods. It was included in the 2017 GOP tax-cut law.
Legislation introduced by Scott and Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey would allow states to move the tax incentives away from zones with economies that have improved to new ones that need the help. It will be one of Scott’s leading goals in 2023.
Scott also insists he hasn’t given up on another priority he shares with Booker, an overhaul of policing practices sparked by George Floyd’s May 2020 killing. Their talks stalled in the last session of Congress. —Laura Litvan
Rep. Josh Gottheimer
Gottheimer will be at the center of the action for votes that require bipartisan cooperation. As co-chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a group equally split between Republicans and Democrats, Gottheimer has racked up some wins, including the infrastructure and semiconductor bills and shaping police training and gun safety legislation.
While he doesn’t hold a leadership position, he’s found a way to work within the system to get his bills and amendments considered. In the last Congress, he sponsored 23 bills that ran the gamut from law enforcement to international affairs.
“The best way to legislate is member to member. You can build coalitions in the House and you also need to work closely with the Senate,” he said. “Not everything has to go through leadership or committee. You can put together strong policies with a group of members in both the House and Senate.”
Gottheimer, as a member of the House Financial Services committee, has also taken a keen interest in cryptocurrency, particularly on stablecoin regulation. He sees the efforts to address crypto as a series of incremental steps, rather than one big bill, given the rapid pace of innovation.
Gottheimer, 47, also advocated to expand the state and local tax deduction, or SALT, a priority that he and other Democrats are continuing to push. It may, however, become a political non-starter in the Republican-controlled House next year unless Democrats can use it as a bargaining chip for GOP priorities. —Laura Davison
Sen. Mark Warner
As Intelligence chairman, Warner is focused on ensuring China doesn’t control the technology for new drugs, food supplies, chemicals, artificial intelligence, advanced energy and quantum computing. A former governor who made his fortune in telecom, Warner also sees the potential for trade deals countering China, and is wary of surveillance of Americans by Chinese-owned platforms like TikTok.
Warner, 68, is also worried that Musk’s dependence on China through Tesla could lead to pressure on the billionaire’s latest acquisition: Twitter. “My concern has always been about this financial overhang that the Communist Party of China has over Elon Musk,” Warner said.
Warner, who is among the lawmakers briefed on the most sensitive security matters, has been a strong supporter of arming Ukraine while trying to avoid a wider war.
Bipartisan “gangs” will continue to be key to getting big bills done in the Senate — a fact Warner embraces. “The old timers always looked down on these gangs,” he said. “I’ve been a part of every one of them.”
Other priorities include bolstering Community Development Financial Institutions to provide access to capital in rural and minority communities and expanding housing.
He said he hopes Congress can pass some version of Senator Joe Manchin’s permitting legislation to speed energy projects too. “Manchin did a real service because he forced this agenda to the front burner,” he said.
One area Warner pushed hard during the Obama administration — a grand bargain on the deficit — has yet to materialize. “It never came to pass because interest rates were so low,” he said. He warned higher rates now threaten to cost the government hundreds of billions a year. —Steven T. Dennis and Laura Litvan
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries
Next Gen Leader
House Democrats elected the 52-year-old Brooklyn native to serve as minority leader in the next Congress, which will make him the first Black party leader in Congress. He is a former litigator — he defended CBS in a lawsuit filed in Utah over Janet Jackson’s infamous “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl — state lawmaker, and Judiciary Committee member, serving as an impeachment manager during former President Donald Trump’s first Senate trial.
Jeffries, who long has been regarded as Nancy Pelosi’s heir in leadership, said in a November letter to fellow House Democrats he would focus on taking back the House majority, “empowering” individual lawmakers and making security for them and their families a priority.
Jeffries previously served as the fifth-ranking House Democrat, a post from which he regularly dispensed jabs at Trump and Republicans, including while traveling to raise money and stump for Democratic colleagues. There’s no indication he plans to tamp that down in his new post as minority leader.
“It’s my hope that we will not see on the Republican side of the aisle a MAGA fire sale,” McCarthy said in mid-December about Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy’s speaker race.
Social and economic issues are a big part of his legislative repertoire, including affordable housing and criminal justice reforms. He’s a member of the liberal Progressive Caucus, but has also cultivated relations with the business community, including New York’s finance industry. The securities and investment industry is his biggest donor, followed by real estate and insurance. Tensions with far-left House members have surfaced over defending moderate party incumbents against primary challenges. Jeffries has worked to bridge differences.
Jeffries can sometimes sound robotic. But his cerebral, scholarly arguments can also deliver captivating pop-cultural references. Few others are likely to ever recite lyrics from the late rapper and Brooklyn native — The Notorious B.I.G. — to score points in the way Jeffries has on the House floor and even during Trump’s second impeachment trial. “And if you don’t know, now you know,” he said, quoting Biggie’s song “Juicy” on the Senate floor. —Billy House
Rep. Pramila Jayapal
The Washington Democrat suffered some missteps along the way, but she gained a reputation as a skilled negotiator and built working relationships between the party’s liberal wing and the moderate White House that resulted in executive actions on student loan debt and the so-called “family glitch” in the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s not always that we’re on the same page, but we are very respectful of each other,” Jayapal said in an interview. “We’ve been working very closely, sometimes behind the scenes, to really enact these kinds of strong administrative changes.”
On Capitol Hill, Jayapal, 57, unified progressives behind legislation that excluded some of their priorities — including the expansion of the child tax credit and free community college — to get others across the finish line. She introduced some 40 bills in the last Congress, with most focusing on progressive issues like health, civil rights, immigration and labor.
Even with Republicans in charge, Jayapal’s priorities remain largely the same — Biden’s economic agenda, codifying Roe v. Wade, voting rights and worker provisions, including a $15 minimum wage. She also hopes to get some bipartisan antitrust and immigration legislation passed.
Jayapal causeds a stir in October when progressives sent an ill-timed letter to President Joe Biden asking him to negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin for an end to the war in Ukraine. The White House has said that there would be no talks with Russia without a decision by Ukraine to pursue them.
Signatories distanced themselves from the letter, asserting it was drafted months prior and they no longer supported the stance. Jayapal quickly retracted the letter and said she took responsibility as CPC Chair.
That mistake may have hurt her chances for a longed-for leadership post, but Jayapal proved her resilience when she was reelected chair of the 101-member caucus. As for what is next, Jayapal says she’s looking for the places where she can make the biggest difference.
“I’m used to people underestimating me,” Jayapal said. “It’s a great superpower to have because they don’t know what hits ’em when I get what I need done.” —Jarrell Dillard
Sen. Patty Murray
When President Joe Biden called to congratulate her after winning reelection in November, Murray cut right to the chase. “I said, ‘thank you very much. Now we need to get child care done,” she told Biden. “I hear about it everywhere I go.”
Her other priority this year: blocking Republican attempts to put new limits on abortion rights after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. “The chaos of that decision is not going to go away,” Murray, 72, said.
As the chair of the Senate Health committee, Murray, 72, was a key architect of the Biden economic agenda and played a significant role in lowering drug prices in the Democrat-only bill. But Murray has also been known to reach across the aisle, making deals with Republican colleagues on budgetary and other issues.
Now, the senator is in line to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee, where she’ll work with moderate Republican Susan Collins to avoid government shutdowns. Indeed, the leaders of both appropriations committees are all women, which Murray considers a reason for hope.
“Our country does not want any more chaos. They don’t. And it is on our shoulders to work us to a place where in good order we can get things done,” she said, dismissing the possibility of a market-ratting showdown over the debt ceiling.
How she handles the Appropriations job could determine whether Murray ultimately becomes the first woman to lead either party in the Senate. In January, she will serve as president pro tempore of the Senate, a largely seniority-based post that puts her third in line of the presidential chain of succession.
Murray demurred when asked if she has any ambitions to be the Senate’s first female majority leader. “I have never charted the path of my life,” she said. “What I have done is do my job, work hard and fight for what I believe in.” —Erik Wasson