Recent polls suggest the midterm elections will result in a split Congress. Democrats are slightly favored to retain control of the Senate and Republicans have a slightly larger chance of taking back the House, according to FiveThirtyEight.1 Of course, if we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s that polling predictions are imperfect.
To help prepare portfolios for any outcome, we consider how energy policy, defense spending, tax policy, and infrastructure programs could be impacted based on whether the Democrats or Republicans control Congress — and suggest SPDR® ETFs that align with each potential outcome.
Energy Policy: Build Back Better vs. Support for Legacy Energy
Democrats maintaining control of Congress would signal support for President Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. Look for legislation that features clean energy refundable tax credits, investment in clean energy and subsidies, as well as broad-based legislation to phase out of fossil fuels.
Republican gains, whether in the House or both chambers, would likely mean an end to Biden’s agenda and would curtail additional climate investments. Strong support for the legacy energy sector likely will be a main focus if the GOP has the majority in both chambers.
Defense Spending: Increases with Bipartisan Support
The ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, derivative impacts from the Nord Stream pipeline leak, and rising tensions around the Taiwan Strait all reinforce bipartisan support for increasing defense spending.
In July, 180 Democrats and 149 Republicans in the House of Representatives joined forces to approve $37 billion more in defense spending than President Biden’s $69 billion request for fiscal year 2023.2 The sum total represents 9.8% more than the 2021 enacted level.3
In all midterm election scenarios, both traditional and cyber defense measures will be on the table as far as spending bills are concerned, especially given the focus on the extension of the R&D tax credit.
Tax Policy: Political Parties at Opposite Ends of Spectrum
If Democrats retain control of Congress, corporate and individual tax increases are more likely. Also, the 1% buyback tax may increase further, as a way to pay for other initiatives like clean energy. As a result, firms that put a priority on dividends may start to be more of a focus than those that return value to shareholders via buybacks.
A Republican-controlled Congress likely will reject any significant corporate or individual tax increases put forth by Congressional Democrats. If that happens, it would mean no tax increase on multi-national income or OECD global tax.
Under Republicans, it would also be more likely that popular tax breaks get extended, or some provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act get reversed. As a result, sectors with large amounts of foreign income —,Technology/Semiconductors,— could be favored over domestic low-tax sectors like Real Estate).
Infrastructure Programs: Bipartisan Support with Different Emphasis
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), signed in November 2021, provide $550 billion of new federal investments over five years. Once again, there is likely to be bipartisan support for further infrastructure spending.
Based on the securing of broadband and water funding in the BIL, Democrats likely would focus on sustainable and intelligent infrastructure, whereas Republicans likely would place a greater emphasis on roads, bridges, and ports.
A split Congress would likely mean legislative gridlock and political theatrics around government shutdowns, debt ceiling limits, and presidential appointees.
Tightening by the Federal Reserve, persistent inflation, increased geopolitical risks, and slowing global economic and corporate growth will continue to dominate headlines and influence voters leading up to election day.
1 www.fivethirtyeight.com as of October 7, 2022. 2 Bloomberg Finance L.P. as of October 7, 2022. 3 “House passes $839B defense bill, swatting down Biden’s military plans,” Politico, July 14, 2022. Budget of the U.S. Government Fiscal Year 2023.
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