Dems in the House
The 2018 midterm elections set a number of records. In particular, a record number of women ran and were elected to congressional office. There were record numbers of early voters. Younger voters turned out in large numbers. While the Republicans picked up 10 seats in the Senate, Democrats turned 40 seats in the house. A divided congress either foreshadows unending gridlock, or, for the optimists, an opportunity to enact groundbreaking bipartisan legislation. Currently, congress has failed to pass a budget, leading to the longest lasting partial shutdown in U.S. History. Hopefully the current impasse is not indicative of what awaits America for the next 4 years, however, a reasonable spectator would be justified in their concern that partisanship will prevail over productivity.
While immigration clearly remains an extremely contentious issue, motivating lawmakers to hold the government and about 800,000 thousand federal workers hostage, there are other policy areas where perhaps a bipartisan compromise could be reached. For example, President Trump, Speaker McConnell and Majority Leader Pelosi have all indicated that they would support an infrastructure bill of some sort. McConnell, however, acknowledged that the most likely situation is one of gridlock. “The one issue that Leader Pelosi and I discussed this morning, where there could be a possible bipartisan agreement, is something on infrastructure,” he said in a statement on November 7th. Pelosi, for her part, had a conversation with President Trump on the eve of the elections, saying, “Last night I had a conversation with President Trump about how we could work together, one of the issues that came up was ... building infrastructure for America, and I hope that we can achieve that.”
Despite the fact that Democrats control the U.S. House of Representatives which includes congress’s oversight power, impeaching President Trump, a priority for some who share the democratic platform, will not happen without Senate concurrence. Given the solid Republican majority in the Senate, the body is unlikely to vote with the House on this issue.
The Senate, however, is solely responsible for confirming presidential judicial nominations. The Trump administration has already secured a record number of judicial appointments and given the Senate’s solidified majority, they will likely continue to do so, if not at an even faster rate.
The Shutdown has cast a pall over the newly elected 115th Congress. Whether the parties can temper their diametrically opposing ideologies enough to get out of gridlock and get into policy-making is any pundit’s guess.