After one of the most brutal and hard-fought campaigns in recent memory, Republican Donald Trump surprised even many in his own party by emerging victorious over Democrat Hillary Clinton to become the Nation’s 45th Commander-in-Chief. While Trump and Clinton each had approximately 47% of the popular vote each, Trump had a clear electoral college advantage with 279 votes. 270 is needed to win. According to exit polls conducted by the New York Times, military members and veterans supported Mr. Trump by a wide 61% to 34% margin.
A Trump Administration will mean big changes in both policy and style from the current White House, and there will be an influx of thousands of Trump loyalists to Washington, DC to fill key positions in the agencies. IAVA will be reaching out to the transition team in the coming hours and days to establish a dialogue to continue our work on behalf of veterans and their families. We look forward to working with the Trump Administration to continue supporting servicemembers, veterans and their families.
Republicans kept control of Congress with a handful of losses after many thought the Senate would go to Democrat control. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was the only GOP senator to lose, surrendering his seat to Iraq vet Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). Of note, Duckworth has been a champion of IAVA’s campaign to #DefendTheGIBill, while Kirk had refused multiple requests to take the same stance. IAVA GI Bill champion Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) suffered a narrow loss to her Democratic rival Maggie Hassan and it is unclear at this point whether a recount will be conducted.
Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Ranking Member Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) both won last night, as expected, so no change in direction on that panel is expected. The most chance for change will come when House Republicans choose the next chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. Acting Ranking Member Mark Takano (D-CA) won his race last night, and he will seek the chairmanship in January.
Although the overall number of veterans in Congress will drop in the 115th Congress, at least 27 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will be among them – an increase over the current 26 with experience in those conflicts. Some of these races are still being decided.
New post-9/11 veterans who were elected include Iraq vets Scott Taylor (R-VA), Anthony Brown (D-MD), and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Afghanistan veterans Jim Banks (R-IN), Brian Mast (R-FL), and Jimmy Panetta (D-CA). Several other races involving post-9/11 veterans have not yet been called.
IAVA will be pressing the new Administration and Congress to quickly address the Department of Defense re-enlistment bonus scandal, defend the Post-9/11 GI Bill from cuts, bring accountability to the Department of Veterans Affairs, improve healthcare for women veterans, and help reduce veterans and military suicides. We will also restate the invitation we extended to both candidates at the Commander-in-Chief forum to unite behind veterans this Veterans Day, Nov. 11, in New York City to begin “Operation Unite America.” The new President must lead from the front to bring the country together.