The 2018 midterms seem likely to flip the US House of Representatives from a Republican to a Democratic majority. This change would impact the Trump/Republican agenda. Apparently much less likely, the US Senate could flip also. What would be the effect of a flip in both houses, should it occur, rather than the House of Representatives alone? And probably more of a theoretical question than anything likely, what would be the effect if the Senate flipped but the House of Representatives remained Republican?

I am interested in understanding the shift in power to act on an agenda and why a change in the House of Representatives alone is touted as a big change - why a change in the Senate doesn't seem to be given the same importance. Is it because it would have less of an effect, or because it has been deemed too unlikely to occur?

  • 4
    Congress comprises two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Confusingly, members of the House of Representatives are historically called "congressmen" and "congresswomen," but using "Congress" to refer only to the House of Representatives is more confusing still. I've edited the question accordingly.
    – phoog
    Nov 5, 2018 at 17:01
  • 6
    I would like to remind everyone who considers answering this question that we should stick to what we can know for sure. Predictions like "this and that law will be made/repealed", "this and that official will be impeached" or "there will be a violent uprising" should not be posted, because they are entirely speculative.
    – Philipp
    Nov 5, 2018 at 17:02

3 Answers 3

  1. The Senate confirms the nominees (mostly, Judicial including the Supreme Court, but also cabinet and other administration positions). If the Senate is flipped, then it is significantly more difficult for nominees to be approved. (In practice it's unlikely they would be willing to approve any of Trump's nominees - Gorsuch received 3 votes from Democrats, Kavanaugh 1).

  2. The Senate votes to convict in any hypothetical impeachment. If you recall, the Senate voted to acquit William Jefferson Clinton after the House impeached him.

    If the Senate flips, the chances of an impeachment succeeding become much higher (still requires a 2/3 supermajority, so it's not guaranteed; and as per an insightful comment on 538's podcast about the House, the flipped seats are more likely to be the "moderates", who were more likely to agree with Democrats, in the first place).

  3. If both houses flip, more legislation opposing the Republican agenda will pass OR will require a veto from Trump (unless a popular speculation proves true and Trump flips and allies with the Democrats to triangulate, ala Clinton).

  • 2
    Although it may not happen in Trump's case, the conventional wisdom is that a president rampantly wielding veto power is expected to hurt his approval rating. This is another implied consequence of your point 3 -- rampant wielding of veto power.
    – John
    Nov 5, 2018 at 18:13
  • 3
    Can you include a citation for "unless a popular speculation proves true..."? Nov 5, 2018 at 21:27
  • 2
    @TemporalWolf it’s been speculated he’d do that since at least the first time he did that, when an impass between GOP factions over the budget resulted in Trump, doing that very thing - working with the Democrats to get a spending bill passed. Nov 6, 2018 at 5:03
  • 1
    "If the Senate flips, the chances of an impeachment succeeding become much higher" Eh, I would say "very slightly higher." I wouldn't say that having 51 votes really gives them a "much higher" chance of reaching 67 votes than having 50 votes does. They would still require an additional 16 GOP votes to convict and remove.
    – reirab
    Nov 6, 2018 at 8:12
  • 1
    @user4012 Would it? It didn't seem to in Clinton's impeachment. All 45 of the Democrats voted not guilty.
    – reirab
    Nov 6, 2018 at 19:19

The biggest effect with a flipped Senate would be on confirmations - anybody Trump wanted to confirm as a judge/justice, or a cabinet member, would have to be someone at least some Democrats in the Senate would support to get to 50 votes (Pence would retain the tie breaker).

  • 2
    Not just that, they'd have to be able to get out of D-controlled committees. Nov 5, 2018 at 23:00

Will the change, if it occurs, have significant effect? Not necessarily. Consider the existing composition of the Senate:

Multiple Democrat-affiliated senators vote frequently with the Republication majority (and with the Trump administration) Top examples: Manchin 61%, Heitkamp 54%, Donnely 54%, Jones 50% King 46% etc. The administration is therefore likely to keep being able to pass similar policy positions int legislation in the future.

Also remember that most of Trump's cabinet was approved at very high rates, indicating an attitude which won't change with a few less votes. Notable examples: "Mad Dog" Mattis 98-1, Nikky Haley 96-4, John Kelly 88-11, Wilbur Ross 72-27, Ryan Zinke 68-32 etc.

Then there's how the Senate Democrat contingent, under Charles Schummer, apparently arranged a deal with the Republication party of no objections to most judicial picks in exchange for the right for Democrats facing re-election challenges to go home and campaign.

So I would definitely not expect some sea change.

  • 2
    "Vote with Trump X%" is rather misleading if you include in 100% all the non-controversial votes that have nothing to do with "Trump" other than him not opposing the vote.
    – user4012
    Nov 6, 2018 at 17:48
  • @user4012: 1. Are there really a lot of these? 2. Are you saying they are counted in that table?
    – einpoklum
    Nov 6, 2018 at 23:58
  • 1
    @einpoklum While the controversial bills get all the press, the vast majority of bills are more bipartisan than that. For example, a quick review of this table shows quite a few votes that are near unanimous. senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/vote_menu_115_2.htm I would assume that these votes would be included in your "vote with Trump" numbers.
    – kuhl
    Nov 7, 2018 at 20:43
  • @kuhl: I can't see which of these votes are controvertial, but almost any of them could be. Also, if many of them weren't, you would be saying that most Democrats vote against non-controversial bipartisan resolutions, which seems nearly a contradiction.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 7, 2018 at 21:01
  • 1
    @einpoklum voting numbers are next to the votes. Many of them are passing with 80-100 ayes. My point is that just because manchin for example often votes with Trump, it doesn't mean he would on one of the "controversial" bills. Instead, my link shows that the percentages are padded quite a bit by no-brainer votes. The significant change is that it will be more difficult for the party line votes to occur.
    – kuhl
    Nov 7, 2018 at 21:05

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .