The United States Mid-term Elections are held every four years in November, in the middle of the President’s tenure. These elections can completely change the power balance in the cabinet and affect the rest of the President’s tenure.
The US held its mid-term elections on 6th November 2018, almost two years after Donald Trump won the presidential elections in 2016. And its results made Trump’s stand in the cabinet a tad weaker. To know how we first need to understand how the US Congress works.
The United States Congress has two chambers – the upper house is called the Senate and the lower house is the House of Representatives.
The Senate comprises of 100 Senators, with two senators representing each state. And the House of Representatives, just like India’s Lok Sabha, is made up of representatives from different states. During the mid-term elections, all 435 seats of the House of Representatives and only a few seats of the Senate (those vacated after Senators retire) are reelected.
Now that the segregation is clear, let’s see how this time’s elections affected the Congress.
The US Senate has a unique set of powers – which includes nomination of Supreme Court Judges and Cabinet members, investigations into the government’s scandals, approval or rejection of treaties with foreign nations, and conducting impeachment trials of ministers.
To achieve a majority in the Senate, a party has to win a minimum of 51 seats (out of 100). And in the 2016 presidential election as well as this time’s mid-term elections, the Republics achieved this majority with 52 seats.
As the Senate has a say in judicial matters (judge nominations, investigations, and trials), the Republicans can now cover up their own scandals and influence legal proceedings against their members. This means that Trump’s scandalous behaviour in office, mainly the allegations against him for sexual misconduct, his Russian connections, and tax evasions can all go uninvestigated with Republican judges in the Supreme Court.
And even though the House of Representatives can initiate an impeachment order against Trump, the (Republican-controlled) Senate would make it very difficult for the order to pass, even if there were strong evidence and public rage to evict him.
Results: House of Representatives
The House of Representatives makes legislative decisions, like those related to revenue, security, public policy, and social welfare. Just like the Lok Sabha, it makes the first line of decisions regarding bills and whether or not they should be passed on to the Senate for approval.
In the mid-term elections, the Democrats won 222 seats, which gave them a majority in the House (min 218 seats needed for a majority), as compared to the Republicans which won only 196 seats.
This means that the Democrats now have control of the first line of decisions and can immediately reject certain bills and policies without even giving the Senate a chance to vote on them. For example, Trump’s controversial gun and abortion laws, that are strongly opposed by the Democrats, can now be looked into and amended by the House. The (Democrat controlled) House can reject bills that tighten visa regulations and sanction countries like Turkey and Iran.
It can also pass new bills regarding immigration laws to overturn Trump’s previous migration policies.
Of course, the strong win by the Democrats does not mean that they can change major laws overnight. The Senate still has an upper hand in the proceedings of the Government. But the Republican government surely does not have that much free reign to do as they please, as they have been for the past two years.
The Blue and Pink waves
The Democrats winning a majority of the Republican-held seats has been termed as the “blue wave” After being fed up with Trump’s policies, some of the strongly Republican states that had voted him into Presidential power two years ago, are now voting for the Democrats, overturning the power in those states.
But apart from the Democrat vs Republican tussle, the mid-term elections also saw what is called as a “pink wave” – a big rise in the number of female contenders. In a historic first, Massachusetts voted for the state’s first black congresswoman while Michigan voted a woman into every local office. A lot of people seem to think that anger over Trump’s misogynist comments, the popularity of the #MeToo movement and appreciation for Hilary Clinton’s attempt at being the first female President, have all led to more and more women wanting to enter politics.
Either way, it serves as a huge bonus to bring women in the forefront of politics, especially when it comes to women-centric issues abortion and sexual harassment.