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Battle for Congress: What’s at stake in the US midterms

© Mandel Ngan, AFP | The Capitol building in Washington, DC.

Text by Rachel HOLMAN

Latest update : 2018-10-23

As campaigning for the 2018 US midterm elections enters the final stretch, here’s a look at the three most likely outcomes when voters head to the polls in November.

There are literally hundreds of local, state and federal elections slated to take place during the 2018 midterm elections. Yet the ones to keep a close eye on are the congressional races: Come November 6, voters will head to the polls to elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives and about a third (35 seats) of the Senate.

At stake is control of Congress, both houses of whichare currently dominated by the Republicans(although the Grand Old Party holds only a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate). Democrats are hoping to wrest enough new seats to at least regain control of the House. They have not held both houses of the legislative branch since 2010.

While many districts and states are already considered a lock for one party or the other, a number of key races remain toss-ups. Campaigning in those areas has reached fever pitch, with both sides pulling out all the stops.

Here’s a look at the three most likely outcomes of the congressional elections, and what it would mean for the future of American politics.

Democrats take the House | Republicans take the Senate

To take the House of Representatives, Democrats need to flip at least 24 Republican seats without losing the 193 they already hold. Of the at least 30 races that are considered too close to call, 29 are for GOP-held seats, making this scenario the most likely outcome of the midterms. The statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight estimates the Democrats have an 84 percent chance of winning the House.

Even President Donald Trump appears to be bracing for the possibility, telling the Associated Press last week that it wouldn’t be his fault if Republicans lose the House.

Where would this leave Congress? In a stalemate. If Democrats controlled the House, they would be in a stronger position to block Republican legislation. But without control of the Senate, it would be difficult for Democrats to advance their own agenda.

There would also be an increased risk of a government shutdown if the two parties failed to agree on issues such as the budget.

Democrats take all

Democrats need to claim at least two Republican-held seats in the Senateto win it in addition to the House. This looks to be an uphill climb, however, sinceslightly more than half of the seats considered toss-ups(estimated at up to nine) are currently held by Democrats.

What would a Democratic-controlled Congress mean? Trouble for Trump. Not only would Democrats have the ability to push through legislation (barring a filibuster or presidential veto), but they would also have the power to block Trump’s administrative and courtnominees (like Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation to the Supreme Court).

Another issue shadowing the midterms is the question of impeachment. But although almost 78 percent of Democrats (and 79 percent of self-described "liberals") support impeaching Trump, the Democratic leadership has dismissed such calls, saying impeachment should not be a pillar of the Democrats’ policy agenda.

And it is unlikely the Democrats would have enough votes to see such a move through, even if they wanted to: a presidential impeachment requires the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.

Republicans take all

To maintain control of Congress, Republicans don’t need to win any new seats – they just need to hold on to the ones they already have in both chambers. Although this scenario is unlikely, it’s not impossible. FiveThirtyEight forecasts that the GOP has a 16 percent chance of keeping control of the House and a more than 80 percent chance of holding onto the Senate.

What are the consequences of a Republican-controlled Congress? More of the same. Republicans would continue to be in a position to push through Trump’s picks to fill vacant administrative or court seats. They would also have the power to revisit past legislative failures, such as repealing the Affordable Care Act (also known as Obamacare) and slashing spending on federal welfare programmes (foodstamps, Medicare, Medicaid) – two longstanding GOP priorities.

There is one final potential outcome of the midterm elections: a different version of a split Congress in which Republicans control the House and Democrats take the Senate. But this scenario – though possible – is considered highly unlikely by political analysts.

Date created : 2018-10-23

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