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The party breakdown for the 118th Congress
The 2022 midterms proved to be more of a “Roe Wave” than an anticipated “Red Wave.” With high inflation, economic volatility, and Biden’s low approval rating, the GOP predicted a sweeping victory in the House and Senate races. However, midterm results tell a different story.
The Dobbs decision this summer closed the gap of the predicted GOP victory. By razor-thin margins, Republican took control of the House, securing 220 seats at time of publication, which flipped the lower chamber to GOP control. Democrats, on the other hand, maintained Senate majority after gaining a GOP-held seat in Pennsylvania and winning the Georgia runoff.
This net gain in the Senate will provide the Democrat party with more cushion as they look ahead to 2024 midterm election cycle. But as the 118th Congress stands now, the divided chambers could pose immediate challenges to passing bipartisan legislation, including several key federal programs that are on the chopping block.
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Trump-backed candidates fared poorly
The 2022 midterm election was a setback for Donald Trump and his wing of the GOP. Pro-Trump candidates, such as Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano and Michigan’s Tudor Dixon, lost by double digits to their Democrat opposition. In Arizona’s Senate race, incumbent Mark Kelly (D) beat Trump-endorsed Blake Masters by 125,000 votes. Dr. Mehmet Oz lost to John Fetterman by five points, which flipped Pennsylvania’s Senate seat to Democrat control.
One of the most ignominious GOP defeats occurred when Trump-backed Joe Kent lost to Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (D) in Southwest Washington. In the primary, Kent ousted congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R), who voted to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection. If Beutler had gotten through the primary, she would have likely been re-elected. In Ohio, incumbent Marcy Kaptur won a redrawn pro-Trump district by 13 points against Republican candidate J.R. Majewski, who is known for flirting with QAnon conspiracies, falsifying his military records, and painting Trump murals on his lawn. In spite of the GOP’s underperformance, Republicans gained a threadbare majority in the House, holding 219 seats to Democrats’ 212.
Fiscal policy in age of high inflation
Abortion rights were not the only focal point during the 2022 midterms. Policy makers debated how federal programs, such Social Security and Medicaid, could be amended to offset high inflation rates and the debt ceiling’s limits. During Congress’s lame duck session, Democrats might broach this topic, having leverage in the Senate to strike a deal on fiscal policy surrounding federal benefits.
Republicans have traditionally advocated for restructuring Social Security and Medicaid, pointing out that life expectancies have increased significantly since the programs’ inception. As a result, members of the GOP posit that the federal government must now support citizens for a longer period of time, which they say contributes to the national debt. Democrats, however, contend that abolishing the debt-limit would mean that the government would not be able to meet its financial obligations to senior citizens, veterans, among others. Moving into the new year, fiscal policy changes will be something to watch.
Where Congress might reach agreements
Given that there is narrow control in both chambers of Congress, it will be harder to pass legislation. Even with Senate majority, Democrats will not have as much leeway to pass big tickets items, as they did in the 117th Congress. In recent years, fewer but larger bills have been passed, including the bipartisan-backed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021, which promises vital investment in clean energy, public transit, roads, bridges, and drinking water.
With several deadlines looming, both chambers will need to work together to get things done. Two pieces of legislation appear to be bright spots on the horizon. The FAA has a congressional mandate to consider the proposed aviation legislation until September 30, 2023. The Farm Bill also has a deadline of September 30, 2023, with the goal of maintaining fair food prices and establishing sustainable practices.