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More Than 40 Harvard Alumni Win Seats in 117th Congress

The United States Capitol houses both chambers of Congress.
The United States Capitol houses both chambers of Congress. By Caroline S. Engelmayer
By Justin Lee, Austin C. Ma, and Christine Mui, Contributing Writers

More than 40 Harvard alumni won seats in Congress in this fall’s elections, with disproportionate representation among the Democratic ranks.

While control of the U.S. Senate remains undecided, Democrats are projected to retain control of the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as regain the White House.

In the Senate, there were at least seven candidates who are alumni of one of the University’s twelve schools, six seeking re-election. Five of the six will remain in their seats for another term: Sen. Dan S. Sullivan ’87 (R-Alaska), Sen. Ben E. Sasse ’94 (R-Neb.), and Law School graduates Sen. Tom B. Cotton ’99 (R-Ark.), Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), and Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.).

As for the House of Representatives, at least 40 alumni won their elections, 36 of whom were incumbents. Six are Republicans, while 34 are Democrats.

University President Lawrence S. Bacow often meets with members of Congress throughout the year to discuss the school’s priorities for higher education, including protections for international students, immigration, and research funding.

Biden’s ability to deliver on his own policy agenda — much of which aligns with Bacow’s — could be constrained if Democrats do not gain control of the Senate.

For instance, a reversal of the endowment tax and a boost to funding for Harvard’s research labs would likely have to come from Congress, which has the power to levy taxes and allocate government money. A Democrat-controlled Senate would be much more likely to do so, given vocal opposition to the tax from many in the caucus, including former Law School professor and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.).

Nonetheless, Biden could attempt to reinstate the Deferred Action for Child Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status program, although he may face legal challenges in doing so. An extension of the programs would provide relief to hundreds of Harvard students and workers who have faced uncertainty about their immigration status during the Trump administration.

Before the elections, many experts predicted that the Democrats would be able to take control of the Senate and expand their majority in the House. But Congressional Republicans outperformed expectations on election night, securing at least 50 seats in the Senate and flipping multiple seats in the House, despite remaining in the minority in the chamber.

Control of the Senate now lies in the outcomes of Georgia’s two runoff elections, which will occur on January 5th, 2021. The Democratic nominees in Georgia will have to win both races for the Democrats to obtain a majority in the Senate.

Kennedy School graduate and Republican Maria Elvira Salazar was the sole Harvard alumnus to flip a seat, beating Rep. Donna E. Shalala (D-Fla.) in a close rematch of their 2018 midterm election race.

Not all Harvard graduates proved successful in their races. Kennedy School graduate Martha E. McSally, Arizona Senator and Republican incumbent, lost her reelection bid in a close battle with Democrat Mark E. Kelly. It was McSally’s second loss in a Senate race in two years.

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PoliticsFront Middle FeatureBacowFeatured Articles2020 Election