Democrats Win House, Republicans Strengthen Grip on Senate

As final election results rolled in, it was clear the Democrats had taken over the House by a solid majority and Republicans would likely add to their lead in the Senate.

The U.S. Capitol building, Washington, D.C.

This November 6, all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 35 Senate seats were up for a vote.

Although as of this writing not all the winners were confirmed, at a high level much was already clear.

The Senate, which prior to the election consisted of 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats, and 2 Independents, had already settled in at this writing to a total of 51 Republicans confirmed winners, 45 Democrats in position, and 4 seats still to be determined. Based on the closeness of the races it appears unlikely the Democrats will do more than just split the unresolved seats with the Republicans. That could mean a net increase in the Republican majority to 54.

The House previously had 235 Republicans, 193 Democrats and 7 vacancies, for a total of 435 seats. Of the 218 seats needed to control the majority, current election results show the Democrats with 219 confirmed as winning their seats and 193 Republicans in place on the other side. That’s a total win of 36 more Democrats so far in the House. 

As to the story beyond the details, perhaps the most significant is the trend of women candidates. This year 116 women won their mid-term elections -- setting a new record.

A few key ballot measure results are also of note in the election.

In Colorado: Proposition 112, which would have mandated that oil and gas companies must keep new exploration operations a minimum of 2500 feet away from populated areas, went down to defeat by a vote of 57% to 43%. Amendment 74, which would have allowed property owners affected by new regulations to demand compensation for their losses, was also defeated. As recently as only a few weeks ago, polls had shown it was leading with 62% of prospective voters supporting it. It lost by a ratio of 53.5% against to 46.5% for it. Trillions reviewed both of these issues in a recent article.

In Florida:  Amendment 9 somehow brought together one big issue – the banning of offshore drilling for oil and natural gas on lands beneath all state waters – and one much smaller issue – the banning of vapor-generating electronic devices such as electronic cigarettes (also known as vaping) in enclosed indoor workplaces. It passed by a vote of 68.7% to 31.2%.

In Michigan: Proposal 3, which allows major changes in voting policies for the state, passed by a ratio of 67.3% for to 32.65% against. Most notable among the list of items included in the proposal are the implementation of automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, and allowance for any Michigan citizen to vote by absentee ballot.

In North Carolina: Voters there authorized a constitutional amendment to require anyone who wants to vote in person to have a valid photo I.D. The results came in as 55.56% for to 44.44% against. This may seem like a simple request from the state, but a surprisingly large percentage of people typically do not have an appropriate government-issued I.D. required by the new regulation. Requiring such a photo I.D. tends to disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

As to what the national results mean, the most significant conclusion is that there was neither a resounding vote of support for Donald Trump, regardless of what he is likely to proclaim just a few hours from now, nor an equally-strong repudiation of Trump's policies. True, the House of Representatives did swing significantly to the Democrat side, but it often happens in a mid-term election that the out-of-power party gains seats. In the Senate, the Republicans have demonstrated their stranglehold on that part of Congress, with a few more seats margin to add.

What happens next is far more significant.

The Democrats being in control of the House are likely to want to use their new powers to exert subpoena power on Donald Trump in a long list of investigations, especially ones they had been frustrated about when the minority party. They will deliver those subpoenas but look to Donald Trump, a likely new Attorney General to replace Jeff Sessions, and the ever-more-conservative Supreme Court to successfully block those moves.

The Senate, with its confirmation powers for justices at all levels and for Cabinet positions, will help back up Trump almost wherever he tilts. That was certainly the case before the election. With the Senate held in slightly-tighter control of the Republicans than before, they will also successfully thwart any moves by the House to attempt to pass anything significant which requires both Houses for approval.

Donald Trump will call the elections a major victory for his policies, even though that is far from true. Yet because he and his team still control much of Congress and the two other branches of government, Trump will likely double-down on his previous bets in helping the rich and big business while actively dismantling further environmental protections for the country.

Trump will also orchestrate a major reshuffle of his White House staff and Cabinet, based on what has already leaked.

Less laws will likely be passed than before, but with an emboldened Trump it is also likely he will paste over those problems with more Executive Orders than ever before.

Expect far less change than one might expect with so many seats flipping in the House. It will be, unfortunately, very much business as usual as the new Congress takes its seat in January 2019.