04 November 2022
The 2022 US midterm elections and what they might mean for Australia
On 8 November, Americans will vote in midterm congressional elections to determine all 435 voting seats in the House of Representatives and one-third of the 100 seats in the Senate. This ASPI commentary outlines what the midterm election outcomes could mean for Australia’s strategic interests by examining the role of congressional committees in US foreign, security and defence policymaking. While most core elements of the Australia–US relationship are bipartisan and enduring, changes to the congressional committees can influence policy areas that overlap with or are vital to Australian interests. Even small changes in the way Congress works could determine how much priority Australian strategic interests receive. Canberra should therefore be highly attuned to the changes in committee structure and membership.
Once the new Congress settles in, the Australian Government will have a brief window of opportunity to feed into and influence outcomes in US foreign, security and defence policymaking. After that point, campaigning will consume Congress, making it harder for Australian diplomats, politicians and other officials to be heard leading up to the 2024 US presidential election. AUSMIN in December 2022, the outcomes of the Defence Strategic Review and AUKUS pathway review (both expected March 2023) along with major Quad meetings held in the first half of 2023, all fall within this window and provide opportunities for senior Australian Government representatives visiting Washington to engage with both their Administration counterparts and with members of Congress including, for example, the strong friends of Australia in the AUKUS Working Group.
This analysis of the midterms and their implications for Australia is informed by a series of meetings with congressional committee staff members (policy analysts and researchers). Those individuals serve both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and work in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.