With the weeks until the Nov. 6 midterm elections steadily winding down and predictions foretelling a "blue wave" which will propel Democrats into Congress, there are some serious questions about what'll happen if Democrats take back the Senate. It's a pretty complex situation, honestly. Here's what we can potentially look forward to in the event that happens.
For much of the midterm election cycle, multiple reports have suggested that Democrats will reclaim control of the House of Representatives. However, when it comes to the Senate, well, it's a lot more complicated — and looks a lot more unlikely. According to statistics site FiveThirtyEight, there's a one-in-five chance that Democrats will win the Senate and a four-in-five chance that Republicans retain control (currently, Republicans hold 51 seats while Democrats have 49). In order to get the majority they need to claim control, Democrats will need to hold onto 26 seats in states like West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, and Florida which are up for re-election — in addition to the winning Republican-held seats in states like Nevada, Arizona, and perhaps even Tennessee or Texas — per Vox.
Mark Peterson, a professor of public policy, political science and law at UCLA who specializes in the relationships between the White House and Congress, tells Elite Daily via email that if Democrats manage to reclaim the Senate it'll be a game changer. "I think it is first vital to emphasize what a shocker that would be, and thus the tremors it would send through the political landscape," he says. "Republicans in Congress and future candidates would start to rethink their entire strategy pursued thus far during the Trump administration."
In the event that that (somehow) occurs and Democrats win the Senate, there could be some big battles ahead, from issues related to President Donald Trump to hot-button topics like health care. One of the main issues Peterson foresees if that happens may be tensions between Trump and Democrats regarding the judicial system. "That may well be the most important change created by having a slim Democratic majority in the Senate," states Peterson.
He notes Trump's success in creating a "hard-right conservative majority" on the Supreme Court — including the contentious nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh — and his appointment of district court and circuit court judges, loading the federal courts with "extremely" conservative judges. "[Trump] has appointed something like one sixth of the district court and circuit court judges, and done so with people with extremely conservative judicial orientations," he writes. If the Democrats can take back the Senate, Trump may have to find much more moderate nominees to these high-ranking positions to muster support from at least some Democrats.
And that'll apply to the Supreme Court, too. "There would not be another Brett Kavanaugh or Neil Gorsuch" if the Democrats can regain control of the Senate, Peterson writes, referencing Trump's two appointments to the court. "Should a Supreme Court seat come open between this election and 2020, only a more moderate candidate would succeed."
Importantly, we would likely see a major slowdown on legislation. Even if Democrats can manage to win both chambers of Congress, "they will not be able to move a legislative agenda," he says. "Republicans will have the filibuster in the Senate and President Trump will have a veto pen." Peterson adds that even if Trump decided to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats, we likely wouldn't see much movement. "The Democrats, however, would not likely be in any mood for major compromises as they look to 2020," he says. Instead, he thinks there would only be formulations of campaign policy positions by Trump, while congressional Democrats set up their own campaign themes — setting the stage for a turbulent 2020 election.
Peterson says that there would be some issues ahead for legislative issues like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare. Any effort to "repeal and replace" Obamacare, he says, would be thoroughly dead. "And that would give the program another two years, at least, to become even more solidified in the experiences, and needs, of much of the public," he explains — and thus even harder to repeal. He says Democrats might try to push for improvements to Obamacare, such as matters associated with pre-existing conditions and pharmaceutical costs.
Impeachment has also moved to the middle of the midterm conversation, however, Peterson says it's much too early to know if the Democrats have sufficient grounds (or numbers) to try to impeach Trump. "It is hard to imagine the circumstances under which the Senate would convict President Trump even if he is impeached," Peterson explains. "That requires a two-thirds vote in the Senate, which could not be achieved without a significant number of Republicans joining in. Given our current politics, that would probably take not only a 'smoking gun,' but a 'smoking bazooka,'" he declares.
Another big unknown, Peterson says, is how Trump would respond to losing Republican control of Congress. "Would he temper his behavior and rhetoric at the margins?" Peterson questions. He wonders whether Republicans will (finally) begin to criticize Trump en masse, or if the president would ratchet up his rhetoric at campaign rallies — like his Montana rally on Oct. 18, when he delighted in the body-slamming of a reporter. The question is the whether it will be "even more on steroids," according to Peterson.
Of course, it might all be a moot point. At the end of the day, it's still pretty unlikely that Democrats will see a Senate majority after Nov. 6. "The odds are really stacked again the Democrats with respect to the Senate," Peterson says. "It is impossible to know all the ways in which the atmospheric ions would rearrange, but it would not just be a "normal" post-election world."
With just over two weeks until voters head to the polls and the odds stacked against them, it overall seems unlikely that Democrats will gain control of the Senate. However, we'll have to wait until Nov. 6 for the final word. See you at the polls!