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Chris Gilson

January 3rd, 2023

Previewing 2023 – what’s in store for US politics and policy


Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Chris Gilson

January 3rd, 2023

Previewing 2023 – what’s in store for US politics and policy


Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

With 2022 now behind us, it’s now time to look ahead to the coming year in US politics and policy. USAPP Managing Editor, Chris Gilson looks at what the coming year may bring. 

This year is what’s known as an “off-year” for elections in the United States, as there are no midterm elections – which were last year – and no presidential elections – which are next year. But the lack of major national elections doesn’t mean that 2023 won’t be an important year for the US politically. Here’s what we know so far about what we can expect in US politics and policy over the next 12 months. This overview won’t include predictions, but it will give you an idea of what may be coming and why it’s important to the US and globally. 

January – Welcome to the 118th Congress 

The first week of 2023 will see the US return to divided government: while the Democratic Party remains in control of the White House and US Senate, the Republican Party won a narrow majority in the recent midterm elections gaining 222 seats to the Democrats’ 212 in the US House of Representatives. The first order of business for the House Republicans on January 3rd will be to elect a speaker to replace Nancy Pelosi (you can listen to a podcast of the US Centre’s 2019 event with then-Speaker Pelosi here). While California Republican Kevin McCarthy has been widely tipped to become Speaker, he has faced criticism from other GOP members who are concerned he may not be conservative enough and have been demanding rule changes to allow them a bigger say in decision making in the House.

February – Chicago mayoral elections 

This month will see Chicagoans go to the polls in the city’s mayoral election. Incumbent Democrat, Lori Lightfoot – who was the first black female mayor of Chicago – is running for a second term. Recent polls have Lightfoot trailing Illinois Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García who ran unsuccessfully for the Chicago mayoralty in 2015. 

March – Biden’s Second State of the Union 

Last year, President Biden held his first State of the Union address to a joint session of the US Congress on March 1st. The date for his second State of the Union address has not yet been set but will likely take place around or before this date. In 2014 research published on USAPP on the influence of the State of the Union speech on congressional committees, John Lovett and co-authors found that:

We find that the president’s power to influence congressional committees depends on four factors: 1) whether the president and Congress share the same party; 2) the president’s public approval level; 3) the amount of time that has passed since the speech was given; and 4) whether we are discussing the House or the Senate.


With the US House now under Republican control, President Biden’s speech may fall on deaf ears in that part of Congress. 

President Joe Biden delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, March 1, 2022, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz). US Government Work

June – Debate time? 

In recent presidential election cycles, presidential primary debates have happened as early as June the year before the presidential election. On the Democratic side, if President Joe Biden does decide to run for a second term, then primary debates are unlikely – there has been no successful challenge to a presidential incumbent for more than 50 years – but for the Republicans, we may see candidates face off sometime over the summer, including former President Trump who has already declared his intention to run for the White House again. In 2022, the Republican National Committee withdrew from the US Commission on Presidential debates (which runs the debates), citing bias from the organization, meaning that the organization, timing and format of any Republican primary debates this year and beyond remains to be determined. 

August – The return of the debt ceiling? 

According to some estimates the US government could reach its self-imposed spending limit – the debt ceiling – by the end of August 2023. The debt ceiling has been a contentious part of congressional politics with some close calls that saw the US potentially close to defaulting at least in part of some of its debt. In 2011, ratings agency Standard and Poors lowered its rating the US credit rating from AAA to AA+ in response to uncertainty about whether legislators would vote to increase the debt ceiling. This year may see a return to political brinksmanship over the debt ceiling from the newly Republican-controlled US House. With the GOP’s thin majority of four, members who are critical of the government’s spending levels will have the potential to stymie attempts to raise the debt ceiling without cuts to spending which President Biden is unlikely to agree to.    

September – Government funding back on the agenda 

On December 29th 2022, President Biden signed a $1.7 trillion bill which would fund the US government until September 2023, avoiding a government shutdown. This bill was preceded by two short-term funding measures, so we should expect similar debates over funding the government at this point of the year, with new short-term stop gap measures a likely outcome. 

November – Off-year elections 

While there are no presidential or other country-wide elections planned for this year, November will see gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Kentucky and Louisiana currently have Democratic governors; in Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards is term limited, so whichever Democrat succeeds him as candidate for the governor’s mansion will not benefit from being an incumbent in what is likely to be a close race. In Kentucky, Democrat Andy Beshear is able to run for another four-year term, and may benefit from the state’s continuing realignment, which we looked at in a 2020 episode of our podcast, The Ballpark.

“210312-Z-OX6641060” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by Kentuckyguard

There will be off year state legislative elections in Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia in November. Louisiana and Mississippi’s state House and Senate are both Republican controlled while New Jersey is a Democratic trifecta. Virginia’s government is currently divided with the state House controlled by the Democrats while the state Senate has a GOP majority. 

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Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of USAPP – American Politics and Policy, nor the London School of Economics. 

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About the author

Chris Gilson

Chris Gilson is the Managing Editor of USAPP, the Phelan US Centre's daily blog on US politics and policy. He was previously Managing Editor of the LSE's British Politics and Policy blog , and of EUROPP- the LSE's European Politics and Policy blog, both for the LSE's Public Policy Group. In 2012, Chris was the recipient of a UK Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Award for Knowledge Exchange/Transfer Initiative of the Year for the LSE’s blog initiatives. He is the co-author, with Amy Mollett, Cheryl Brumley, and Sierra Williams, of Communicating Your Research with Social Media: A Practical Guide to Using Blogs, Podcasts, Data Visualisations and Video (Sage, 2017). He has a undergraduate and a Masters degree in Geography, and a postgraduate diploma in Strategic Management, all from the University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.

Posted In: Elections and party politics across the US

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