We’re one week out from the election and less than two months til the new Congress gets down to business. To recap: roughly 113 million people went to the polls. That’s the highest turnout for midterms in decades. Voters decided Democrats will control the House. The GOP will stay HBIC of the Senate. Democrats flipped seven governor seats while Republicans kept control of governor mansions in crucial swing states (think: Ohio). And Florida and Georgia are still trying to figure out what just happened.
So what’s next?
Well, now there’s a divided Congress. And we all know how much Congress likes to compromise. Here’s what the balance of power could mean for the biggest issues that got voters to the polls...
The number one issue for voters this year. Repealing and replacing Obamacare has been a GOP dream for years. They failed to get it done when they controlled both chambers. Now, with a split Congress, file that under ‘definitely not gonna happen.’ The same goes for some Dems who’ve been backing a Medicare for All platform. Pipe, meet dream. What could happen: bipartisan support for legislation that keeps prescription drug prices in check. And potentially support to bring back subsidies that help low-income people pay for health insurance. Meanwhile on the local level, three red states gave a thumbs up to ballot initiatives expanding Medicaid. Meaning hundreds of thousands of low-income people will get access to free or low-cost health coverage.
The number two issue that got people to the polls. With Dems in the House, President Trump’s “big, beautiful” border wall is fading into the distance. But Republicans are expected to throw some dollars towards it when they finalize funding for the Dept of Homeland Security later this year. Think of it as a parting gift. But it’s unlikely Trump will get all of the billions of dollars he needs to get it built. Expect Dems to come in and focus on how to save or fix DACA. They’re also likely to use their new subpoena power to launch investigations into things like the admin’s immigration policies (see: the “zero tolerance” policy). If this happened, it could potentially expose more info about these policies and provide Dems the ability to pressure the Trump admin to change them.
If anything gets passed under a split Congress, this is it. That’s because Democrats tend to be on board with Trump’s efforts to protect US workers from foreign competition. The new NAFTA aka USMCA trade deal with Mexico and Canada still needs congressional approval. Dems could hold off support as leverage for other priorities (think: infrastructure, drug prices). But expect a vote on the new deal as soon as January. If Trump gets the votes, he’ll probably move on to the next issue on his trade agenda: the car and agricultural industry. This would mean renegotiating trade agreements with Japan and the EU. Trump also still feels strongly that the US is getting taken advantage of by the Chinese. Dems generally agree. But even if they push back, Trump’s already issued tariffs on Chinese goods without congressional approval. So a split Congress isn’t stressing him out too much.
The Russia investigation
Ohh this tangled web. The special counsel and the Senate Intelligence Committee investigations are ongoing. Earlier this year, the GOP-led House investigation concluded with ‘nothing to see here.’ House Dems said that committee didn’t go far enough, as in didn’t interview key witnesses or look into certain info. Now that Democrats are in charge there, expect them to go digging for Russian dirt again. House Dems also now have the power to subpoena special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings and potentially make them public. TBD if it comes to that, but some think it will given the Attorney General shakeup. The new acting AG is someone who’s made comments about limiting Mueller’s work. And has the power to keep Mueller’s findings from Congress. Cue the House potentially stepping in.
The reason why Republicans keeping the Senate is a BFD. The Senate has to sign off on Supreme Court justices, as well as district and appeals court judges. In Trump’s first two years in office, lawmakers have given the thumbs up to a record number of them. It’s something that Trump, conservatives, and evangelicals have been high-fiving each other about. The decisions of these judges could impact issues like abortion and gay marriage, from district courts all the way up to the Supremes. Meaning: since these are lifetime appointments, the Senate is helping set the legal tone of the country for years.
Yes, we’re already talking about 2020. The midterms gave a veeeery early sign of what to look for in the next presidential election. Democrats had big wins in key Midwestern and Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. But Republicans won some key races in Ohio and Iowa. Surprise: Florida’s still a swing state. Exit polls show Democrats are making headway with suburban and female voters. But rural voters showed up to deliver wins for Republicans. All of these demos will be on watch in 2020 to see how they’re feeling about Trump and whether or not they plan to turn out. Heads up: it’s pretty standard for a president’s party to lose seats in the midterms, and then for the prez to get re-elected. So don’t expect Dems’ House wins to predict how 2020 will go down – it’s still way too early to tell.