With Republicans taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives for at least the next two years, there could be attempts to alter, or even repeal, measures that affect the HVAC industry. But with Democrats retaining a narrow majority in the Senate, and Democrat Joe Biden still in the White House, wholesale policy or legislative changes are unlikely.

So what might the industry expect from the shifting political dynamics on Capitol Hill? The ACHR NEWS recently put that question to industry leaders from organizations that represent contractors and distributors.

“The most likely outcome of a Republican House with the Democrats in control of the Senate and White House is gridlock,” said Matt Michel, the outgoing president of Service Nation. “Keeping Republicans in line is like herding cats and that will take up the majority of the House leadership’s efforts.”

Gridlock isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Michel added.

“Risk is antithetical to business,” he said. “Gridlock reduces risk.”

Another possible plus, he said, is that the stock market traditionally responds well to political gridlock, something that could boost HVAC sales.

“A rising stock market would leave many homeowners feeling more comfortable making financial investments in their homes,” Michel said.

Alex Ayers, the director of government affairs at HARDI, said it’s “very likely” that Republicans will put forth “messaging bills” that would repeal the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), even though they’d have little chance of Senate approval. The IRA, which wasn’t supported by a single Republican in either chamber, enhances tax incentives for the purchase of energy-efficient HVAC equipment and earmarks billions in rebate money to support building electrification.

Some tinkering with the IRA is more likely to be approved than a repeal, Ayers said.

“I do think there will be some bipartisan bills that fix mistakes or make improvements to parts of the legislation that were badly written without industry input,” Ayers said.

One of those mistakes, he said, is having different “gatekeepers” for different segments of the IRA’s HVAC incentives: Homeowners who plan to take advantage of 25C tax credits need to make sure the equipment they buy falls within the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s highest efficiency tier, while a rebate program for the purchase of equipment such as heat pumps is linked to the equipment meeting Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Star standards.

Having two sets of requirements, Ayers said, will make it difficult to get the two programs to work together.

At ACCA, president and CEO Barton James said a Republican-controlled House will mean better access to lawmakers.

Public access to the Capitol has been limited since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, but Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who is in line to be the next House speaker, wrote to Capitol building management personnel on November 10, the day after the midterm election, telling them to prepare for reopening the House.

“Government of the people, by the people, and for the people requires interaction with the people,” McCarthy wrote. “It is for this reason that we must welcome Americans from across the nation back to the Halls of Congress.”

James received a copy of the letter.

“I was rejoicing the evening I got it,” he said.

Like Ayers, James said some changes to the IRA are possible.

James said he’d like to see the states given more flexibility in administering the IRA’s rebate programs, and questioned the legislation’s focus on building electrification. Pointing to a recent attack on electrical substations in North Carolina, which left thousands without power, he said the grid is currently too vulnerable for a massive shift away from fossil-fuel-burning heating appliances and toward electrification.

“It should be about energy efficiency, not picking winners and losers,” James said. “They’re picking winners, and that’s not in the best interest of the consumer.”