November 9, 2012
What an election! Tuesday saw victories across the board that could signify a change in the tide of HIV/AIDS in the United States. However, the fight to ensure the best quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS won't be without struggle. Here's a breakdown of some of the major victories and challenges we can expect as a result of Tuesday's election:
The Democrats gained two seats and will maintain control of the Senate with a likely 55 seat majority (Independents Bernie Sanders (VT) and Angus King (ME) are likely to caucus with Democrats), while the Republicans lost two seats and will hold 45 seats in the new Congress. This election saw multiple contentious tossup races go to Democrats. Here are some of the key Democratic victories from that night:
All 435 seats in the House were up for grabs Tuesday night, and Republicans will maintain control into the next Congress. In the election, Democrats gained four seats for a total of 194, while Republicans lost three seats for a total of 233 but will maintain a majority. Eight seats are currently still undecided. In the current Congress, Republicans have a majority of 240 seats, Democrats currently have 190 seats and there are five vacancies. It takes at least 218 seats to make up a majority.
One truly historical outcome is that, the majority of Democrats in the House will not be white men. Instead, come January, the Democrats in the House will be comprised mostly of women and minorities. AIDS United hopes this change will lead to more allies in the House, as HIV/AIDS in the United States disproportionally affects young men and women of color.
The importance of the state elections this year cannot be stressed enough. With President Obama's reelection, implementation of the Affordable Care Act will move forward, and the states will play a large role in Medicaid expansion and the creation of health insurance exchanges in 2014. Six Democrats and four Republicans won their races for governor, and Democrats took control of eight state legislative chambers.
"Interestingly, the two parties will share legislative control (i.e. one Republican chamber and one Democratic chamber) in only three states. Therefore, bipartisan agreements regarding Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchanges will be difficult." Furthermore, this election saw all state legislatures in the South turn Republican, while state legislatures in the Northeast and the West Coast are now almost purely Democratic. Many Republicans have voiced their opposition to the Affordable Care Act, meaning that achieving Medicaid expansion and establishing health insurance exchanges in the South could be extremely difficult given the new political makeup. However, the South continues to see a concentration of HIV/AIDS and rising infection rates! It is imperative that all states, especially those in the South, achieve some sort of compromise on these issues in order to provide the best possible care to people living with HIV/AIDS.
Melissa Donze is a Zamora fellow.