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With the looming reality of a Republican controlled House and Senate, Professor Adam Silver of the Political Science Department weighs in on what it all means. Republicans earned a net gain of between eight to nine seats in the Senate (we’re still waiting on Louisiana, though Silver predicts it will go to the Republicans) and now have a majority in the House, the size of which hasn’t been seen since 1928.
They did this, Silver believes, for a variety of reasons. Democrats had an unkind electoral map for Senate races, meaning Democrats had to defend Senate seats in predominantly Republican states.
This effort was made more challenging by the fact that the President’s party traditionally loses seats in Congress during the midterm elections, especially in the second midterm election, known as the “six-year itch;” President Obama’s low approval rating complicated the situation even further. The latter point served as the foundation of the Republicans’ campaign message on the national level, which basically said “we are not Obama.”
In contrast, the Democrats struggled to define themselves and offer a clear message. For the most part, the Democrats in the Senate races chose to run away from their President, which may not have been the best approach.
“That [Democrats running away from Obama] doesn’t really hold water [for voters]…because…, they can [be] tie[d] to his policies quite easily…you can run on…certain achievements that President Obama has done while in office, and the Democrats didn’t do that, ” Silver said.
That said, hindsight is twenty-twenty.
The successful midterm elections for Republicans was enhanced by their winning gubernatorial races in historically blue states such as Illinois, Massachusetts, and Maryland. Governor Walker (R) of Wisconsin, further, survived his third race in four years. Locally, Silver said he will be surprised if there are any dramatic changes. Governor-elect Charlie Baker ran a very moderate campaign, throughout which he muted his Republican identification. This along with Martha Coakley’s lack of campaign message helped him earn the votes necessary to win
There will, however, be definite changes at the national level. First, President Obama’s Affordable Care Act may be in danger due to the Supreme Court accepting a case that challenges provisions of the law relating to tax subsidies. The House Republican and their new Senate majority may also pass legislation to amend the law or repeal it outright. Whether such an effort may survive a presidential veto is another matter.
Secondly, Senate Republicans will now be able to chair committees and “when you chair committees, you have a great deal of power about what bills come into the committee, how they’re debated, [and] subpoenaing information or records from various agencies…You have much more control over the purse strings,” said Silver.
These next two years will be a fascinating build-up to the 2016 elections. In regard to Senate races, the map is more favorable to Democrats in that they only have to defend 10 seats to the Republicans’ 24. Further, Silver said the Latino vote will be incredibly important, particularly in swing states, and may hinge on what President Obama does about the immigration policy.
President Obama has threatened to take action through executive order if Congress refuses to act. The Republican response in the House and Senate and what action is taken, if any, could sway the Latino vote to the Democrats or the Republicans. One of the most important things for the Republicans to do to be successful is to get their internal factions under control and keep the Tea Party members at bay.
“[In the coming months,] we’ll see if the Democrats try and play games in the Senate and force Republicans to take votes on amendments just to get them on the record or…what will happen with the filibuster, or what will happen with President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch to become the next attorney general?…Will they do it in the new session”?
It will be interesting to see what this Republican controlled Congress will do; drive the country into a stalemate or defy stereotypes and work on their bipartisanship.
Abbi Matheson ’17 is a staff writer for The Hub. E-mail her at email@example.com.