Democrats Clinch Hold Over House With Slimmed Majority, Scale Back Dreams of Senate Takeover


by Svetlana Ekimenko

Election Day in the US pitted Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Joe Biden in a heated battle for the Oval Office, and also witnessed a vehement struggle between the two parties for control of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the two branches of the United States’ bicameral legislature.

The Democratic Party has retained its control of the US House of Representatives, with the Democrats clinching their 218th seat on 10 November, reported the Associated Press.

Marking the second time since 1995 that the party is set to control the chamber for a second two-year period, the Democrats secured their majority after three Congressional candidates won: incumbents Kim Schrier in Washington, Tom O’Halleran in Arizona and Jimmy Gomez in California.

The Democrats had gone into the 2020 election projected as not only likely to retain their hold over the chamber, but bolster their majority by 10 to 20 seats. Instead, their hopes were dashed as some of their incumbents lost, while party challengers failed to flip coveted GOP seats.

At least seven Democrats lost their seats to GOP opponents, as Republicans held on vehemently in Democrat-coveted suburban areas.

The lacklustre result added to the disappointment over the likelihood of Republicans maintaining control of the Senate – a prize long eyed by the Democratic Party, as it hoped to seize the four necessary seats in Congress’s upper chamber (in addition to the presidency), giving it the ability to both introduce and ratify new laws.

However, most Republican incumbents held their seats, to date denying the Democrats a chance to claim control over the Senate and accordingly hold sway over the next president’s agenda.

Against the backdrop of finger-pointing and blaming among congressional Democrats, despite the alleged presidential election win of their candidate Joe Biden, House Democrats celebrated the party’s retention of control on Tuesday.

“We have the gavel, we have the gavel,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is suggested as likely to retain her position as the House leader of the party, after winning re-election in California.

Commenting on the Democrats’ losses in districts where the GOP votes were “almost insurmountable”, she said:

We’ve lost some battles but we’ve won the war.”

Slender Majority

After a better than forecast performance at the polls, House Republicans have reportedly displayed elation over a smaller Democratic majority.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and his top aides were cited as mulling plans on potentially splitting Democrats by means of diverse procedural tools at their disposal, reported Politico.

“We are pretty giddy, I must say… The excitement is palpable. We will press [Democrats] hard on the floor over the next two years to set up repeated situations where their vulnerable members have to cast tough votes,” Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former head of the House GOP’s campaign arm was quoted as saying.

A slender majority could potentially allow any group of lawmakers to pressure Pelosi on what bills should be considered, as Democratic moderates and progressives are known to clash occasionally.

Republican-Democratic Battle for Majority

The Senate and the 435-member House of Representatives together make up Congress. Ahead of Election Day, the Democrats had a 232-197 House advantage, along with one independent and five open seats.

In the Senate, the Republicans currently have a 53 to 47 majority, and Democrats hoped to seize the four seats they needed to take control.

The Democrats have not had control of the Senate for six years, yet currently many Republican incumbents have held their seats.

With the Party having lost seats in the House of Representatives and the US Senate race undecided as two critical Senate races in Georgia are headed to a runoff in January, purported US President-elect Democrat Joe Biden would potentially face a succession of roadblocks put up by Republican lawmakers in Congress over major legislative initiatives, such as expanding healthcare access, fighting climate change and providing boosted coronavirus aid.

Nevertheless, if Democrats can gain both seats in Georgia, a traditionally Republican state, this would lead to a 50-50 tie in the Senate, a crucial decision-making result.

This would place the Democrats in control of the chamber if Joe Biden is president, as the vice-president is vested with the power of casting tie-breaking votes.

There is a specific possible scenario in the US elections when the House of Representatives comes into play.
Even after the electoral vote has been counted in the United States, when neither candidate secures a majority of the electoral vote, or both candidates finish with 269 votes, Under the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, this triggers a “contingent election”.

In that case it falls to the House of Representatives to decide who wins the election, while the Senate selects the vice president. Each state delegation in the House receives a single vote.

Trump Exploring Legal Options

On 7 November Joe Biden was declared US president-elect after gaining the majority of the Electoral College votes, with Donald Trump refusing to admit defeat and filing lawsuits in several states, alleging voter fraud.

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Monday said that US President Donald Trump was “100% within his rights” to choose legal options in the 2020 presidential election.

“We have the system in place to consider concerns, and President Trump is 100% within his rights to look to allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options,” McConnell noted in the Senate.



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