Currently, there are 54 Republicans in the Senate and 45 Democrats (including Bernie Sanders who is Independent but caucuses with the Democrats). There is a good chance of winning a Senate majority. More than twice as many Republican seats are up for election this year as Democratic seats. If Clinton is elected, Democrats will need 50 Senators to have a majority because Vice-President Kaine will vote in the event of a tie. Under the Obama Administration, Republican filibusters have become regular, and don’t even require talking anymore, but a simple majority (51votes) is enough to confirm a judge.
There are several seats in which Democratic victory appears overwhelmingly likely and several in which the odds look difficult to impossible. There are seven highly competitive races, which are listed in priority order here. This order comes from consideration and balancing various factors: closeness of Senate races, the quality of the Democratic and Republican candidates, and the status of the presidential race in the state (if it’s close, we have looked at whether the Senate candidate seems likely to be able to get out additional voters).
Stay tuned for links to information about Governors and US House
Democrat Deborah Ross, a civil rights lawyer and law professor with a long record of support for people with disabilities, is challenging Republican Richard Burr, a two-term incumbent. Ross’s answer to the Respectability questionnaire was one of the strongest. [source] She knows disability issues well from work as a civil rights lawyer and state legislator. As a legislator, she sponsored bills to remove archaic disability terminology, fund services for people with developmental disabilities and create effective anti-bullying programs. Republican Senator Richard Burr claim a signature accomplishment on disability issues: credit for passing the ABLE Act, which was cosponsored by 78 of 100 Senators and 381 of 435 members of the House of Representatives. The Act allows people with disabilities to accrue some savings through earnings and gifts without losing SSI. Previously, in keeping with a conservative philosophy that only extremely poor people should get help, SSI beneficiaries became ineligible if their savings exceeded $2,000. It is fortunate that Republicans decided to allow this exception; however, the way the act was structured it requires state action, which has resulted in delays, gaps and confusion. Richard Burr’s general record has not been one of bipartisan cooperation or of support for people with disabilities. Though claiming to support full federal funding for IDEA, he has voted for massive cuts in special education spending. [source] Richard Burr is proud that he has “voted 56 times to defeat, dismantle, and defund Obamacare;” “did everything in [his] power to stop this bill from moving forward” when it was in committee; “spent countless hours on the senate floor to rally against the bill;” and “used every procedural tactic at [his] disposal to block its passage.” He has opposed North Carolina using federal money to expand Medicaid, a decision which has deprived many North Carolina children with autism of critical services. [source]
Catherine Cortez Masto Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, is retiring, leaving an open seat. It is being sought by Catherine Cortez Masto, who has protected people with disabilities as Attorney General and would be the first Latina woman in the Senate, and by Joe Heck, an extremely conservative Republican physician who has been in Congress since and wants to scrap Obamacare and dismantle the Department of Education.
Cortez Masto has worked on behalf of children, trafficking victims and people facing foreclosure. She pressed through an health care antitrust settlement which resulted in funding increases for autism treatment, fetal alcohol syndrome diagnosis and improved mental health care services. [source] Cortez Masto’s views on disability issues are consistent with the Democratic Party’s platform and there is every reason to anticipate that she would support its implementation. She recognizes and wants to deal with environmental causes of some disabilities, and has been endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters. [source] Joe Heck is an extremely conservative doctor from Nevada who thinks education decisions are “Best Made At The Local Level” and has called for dismantling the US Department of Education, which is charged with protecting special education rights. [source: Las Vegas Sun, 8/10/10] Heck has called social security “a Pyramid scheme that isn’t working.” [source] He has voted with the Tea Party for deep cuts in domestic programs. [source] He wants to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which has protected individuals with pre-existing conditions (in many cases, disabilities) in the individual market and extended coverage for mental health and autism therapies.
Democrat Maggie Hassan, who is currently the governor of New Hampshire, is challenging first-term incumbent Republican Kelly Ayotte. Before being governor, she served on the board of the Disability Rights Center. Hassan’s first ad tells the story of her son Ben, who has cerebral palsy, is a wheelchair user and is nonverbal. [source] As a candidate for governor, she explained her views on disability policy. [source] She understands the harm caused by Trump’s mockery and acceptance of it by other Republicans, including the Senator she is challenging. [source] Ayotte has been better than most Republicans on disability issues in the narrow sense. Unlike most Republicans, she voted to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. She has been honored for disability work by an organization eager to “reinforce” anyone engaging in the bipartisan cooperation which used to be typical and now is not. [source] However, Ayotte’s positions on broader policy issues that affect people with disabilities are worse, and the biggest problem is her willingness to stick to the Republican party line, no matter how outrageous it becomes.
Ayotte has been on the fence with respect to Trump. In early May, she came up with the formulation that she would “support” but not “endorse” Trump. [source] As the election drew near, she said that “absolutely” she would see Donald Trump as a “role model” for young people, and quickly took it back. [source] [source] [source] Ayotte seemed as she said that to be trying to calculate how to say the thing that would be least politically damaging, and predictably retreated, although not by recognizing the full extent of Trump’s problems and saying that neither he nor Clinton is a good role model. Most importantly, she is a loyal Republican who follows party directives to obstruct President Obama’s judicial appointees, and could be expected to do the same with Hillary Clinton’s nominees, and to tie up federal governments and if necessary shut down the government to attain Republican objectives.
Democrat Katie McGinty is challenging Republican Pat Toomey, a first-term incumbent Republican McGinty studied chemistry, went to law school, and became involved in environmental policy issues. Many of McGinty’s disability positions are set forth at The Respectability Report. Toomey apparently did not respond to the Respectability questionnaire and his website says nothing about disability issues. Toomey is a former president of the Club for Growth, a right-wing organization that is extremely hostile to government support for people in need and to regulations aimed at preventing discrimination. He has supported privatizing Social Security. He has proposed turning Medicaid from a system of insurance coverage with specified benefits into a system of block grants to states, and proposed a budget in 2012 which would have cut Medicaid funding in half over the next decade and more than doubled seniors’ out-of- pocket costs under Medicare. [source] His sole educational policy idea seems to be charter schools and school choice, and he has shown no interest in ensuring that those programs fairly include and serve students with disabilities.
Democrat Patrick Murphy, a CPA who ran an environmental remediation company before entering Congress in 2013, is challenging Republican incumbent Marco Rubio. Murphy has worked with Senator Elizabeth Warren to increase benefits for people with disabilities. He has pushed to get the Congress to deal seriously with Zika in hopes of avoiding readily preventable disabilities. Murphy supports Medicaid expansion, which Florida’s Republican governor has blocked. That would allow more low-income Floridians to access health care including people with preexisting conditions and people who need services such as applied behavior analysis for children with autism. [source] Murphy appears a safe bet to support the Democratic platform, which is new and improved on disability issues.
Rubio had promised not to run during his failed bid for the Presidency, in which he distinguished himself by suggesting that Obama had a secret anti-American, pro-terrorist agenda and starting the “small hands” “discussion.” Rubio seems to be better at attending photo opportunities than showing up at his job in the Florida legislature or the US Senate. He claims to support young children with autism, but appears to have played at best a minor supporting role in extending insurance coverage. He has tried to tie anti-Zika funding to cutoffs for contraceptive care. He has done all he can to undermine the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”). In a cynical move designed to pit seniors who have paid social security taxes and people with disabilities against each other, he and other Republicans have claimed that many people “claiming” to have disabilities receive SSI fraudulently and that social security can be saved in part by rooting them out. [source] [source] [source] [source] [source]
Despite Trump’s attacks on people with disabilities, among others, as of the morning of October 12, Rubio still stands by him. [source]
Democrat Jason Kander is challenging first-term Republican Roy Blunt. Kander, an Afghanistan veteran and lawyer, has perhaps this year’s best campaign commercial — him assembling a machine gun blindfolded while calling out Blunt’s opposition to even the most moderate efforts to restrict access to guns by people likely to misuse them. [source] He has borrowed a good line about Trump from his mother: “My mom asked me how we could have a president that she would have to mute the TV when she’s with my son so he doesn’t learn offensive words.” [source] In Afghanistan, he investigated corruption, and as a state legislator, he pressed for ethics reforms. Kander has been strong on veterans’ and other disability issues, and has worked to increase voting and other forms of accessibility as Secretary of State. Kander has met with people who live near radioactive waste and promised to help. [source] Blunt likes to campaign with veterans, but has voted against funding services including those related to disabling conditions as well as against protecting military pensions. [source] He has criticized delay for VA care, but his votes made delays inevitable. [source] As for Obamacare, Blunt wants to junk it, or at least score points by attacking it, and Kander wants to improve it. [source] He has supported massive cuts in discretionary, nonmilitary spending, such as education, health care and enforcement of disability rights. Blunt’s attitude towards working across parties lines to do the public’s business is typical, but he has expressed it with unusual clarity:
Senator Blunt has told use exactly where he is coming from: he believes “the spirit of bipartisanship can be easily overrated” and as a member of the House said leadership would need to be “more partisan … rather than focus on the work on the floor” [Gannett News Service,11/7/08].
This is an open seat created by the retirement of Republican Dan Coats. Democrat Evan Bayh is running against Republican Todd Young. As governor, Bayh implemented early intervention services and was far more effective than many governors in accessing Medicaid funding to improve disability services in community, noninstitutional settings. As Senator, he cosponsored the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Amendments Act of 2008, which fixed judicial interpretations that had greatly weakened the ADA. He also cosponsored pre-Obamacare legislation to allow middle-class parents to buy Medicaid coverage for children with disabilities. [source] He strongly supports social security benefits, both earned and SSI benefits for people who have not been able to contribute taxes to the system.
Todd Young’s sole answer to problems in education is to decentralize decision making: He thinks that “Unfortunately, Washington is dead set on controlling education decisions and budgets. An unelected bureaucrat in Washington is in no way more prepared to make education decisions than local and state governments. A one-size fit all approach does not set up our children for success.” For students with disabilities who depend on federal statutes, private rights to sue under them, and federal agencies to help enforce them, this is bad news. He calls Obamacare “akin to a government takeover of your healthcare” and proposes returning to the days of barebones, inadequate policies that failed to spread disability-related risks across large pools, and wants to weaken states’ abilities to protect their people by allowing sale of policies across state lines. [source] He wants to convert Medicaid from an insurance program with defined benefits and turn it into grants to state governments to spend as they wish. He promises to keep opposing “burdensome and job-killing governmental regulations.” Young explained to the ARC of Indiana that he supports much greater reliance on “charitable giving” by individuals and charitable organizations, and he supports programs in which investors can fund social programs and get returns depending on success. [source] Unfortunately, investors would be heavily involved in assessing their own success, and success can be measured in ways that block needed future services (e.g., measuring literacy programs by how many students qualify for special education). While there is some room for examining the “unique and innovative solutions” to “dire issues,” Young’s overall record is very negative from the point of view of people with disabilities and those involved with their lives.