Written by Gisela Grieger.
On 8 November 2022, the US will hold mid-term elections. All 435 seats of the House (of Representatives) and 35 of the 100 Senate seats are on the ballot. The mid-terms will not only shape the power distribution of the 118th US Congress (2023-2024) and the chances of legislation being passed in a highly polarised Congress but also provide insights into which direction the US may take in the 2024 presidential race. In mid-term elections, US voters typically set an end to a ‘unified’ government where the president’s party is in control of both chambers, as was the situation during the 117th US Congress (2021-2022), by flipping the majority in at least one chamber. Historical precedent suggests a strong correlation between the incumbent president’s approval rating and the loss of House seats faced by the president’s party. Given President Biden’s current low approval rating, this does not bode well for Democrats. Recent polls suggest that the Democrats are likely to lose their thin majority in the House, but may retain control of the Senate. Of late, a string of vital legislative wins and two Supreme Court rulings have created some new momentum for Democrats.
The US primaries’ results for Republican candidates endorsed by former President Donald Trump suggest that his influence on the Republican Party should not be underestimated. Trump’s narrative about the ‘stolen election of 2020’ continues to resonate strongly with rank-and-file Republicans and the Republican voter base. Few Republican candidates have publicly distanced themselves from that narrative and many of those who have, as well as those who voted for Trump’s impeachment, have lost in the primaries against a Trump-endorsed Republican challenger. A Republican-controlled House is likely to mean legislative gridlock in many policy areas, with President Biden resorting to more executive orders for regulatory action, to his power to veto legislation, and to an increased focus on foreign policy, in particular if Republicans also take control of the Senate. Indeed, the House Republican legislative platform for the 118th Congress is testimony to growing partisanship on a wide range of sensitive domestic issues and to comparatively more bipartisanship on foreign policy issues.
Read the complete briefing on ‘The 2022 US mid-term elections: Legislation meets politics‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.