Uncertainty about who will control the 118th Congress when it begins on Jan. 3, 2023, will still loom large when the lame-duck session of the current legislature convenes on Nov. 14 with Democrats in charge in the Senate and House of Representatives.
As it was two years ago, when runoffs in Georgia for two Senate seats resulted in the chamber’s current 50–50 split—with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tiebreaking votes—control for the 2023 Senate will be decided on Dec. 6.
That’s when voters in the Peach State will return to the polls for a runoff to decide whether to keep incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) in office or to send Republican challenger and former Heisman Trophy winner Hershel Walker to the nation’s capital. Neither Warnock, who had a slight lead, nor Walker got more than the 50 percent of votes cast as required to avoid a runoff.
One thing that is certain is “there is a long list of things senators would like to do and not a lot of time to do them when the Senate reconvenes for the lame duck session,” according to Jim Manley, former communications director for then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“While we should know more about the exact make-up in the Senate once the races in Arizona and Nevada are decided, I don’t expect Senator Warnock to be spending much time in Washington voting until his race is called,” Manley told The Epoch Times. “So until that happens, the leadership will probably only be able to bring bipartisan nominations or legislation to the floor.”
Manley was referring to the Nevada and Arizona Senate races. In Nevada, Adam Laxalt, that state’s former attorney general, has a slight lead over incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), with nearly 20 percent of the vote still uncounted. In the Arizona contest, incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) leads Republican challenger Blake Masters by about 5 points with 30 percent of the vote yet to be tallied.
A fourth Senate race also remains undecided in Alaska, where Republican challenger Kelly Tshibaka leads incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) by less than 2 points, with 80 percent of the vote tallied. Alaska has a unique “ranked choice” voting system that’s delaying the count and complicating projecting the results.
During the lame-duck session, lawmakers must decide what to do about the continuing resolution (CR) they approved before the election that kept the government funded and open through Dec. 19. If, as expected, Republicans gain control of the House, the pressure will be on congressional Democrats to get as much passed as possible.
When The Epoch Times asked Robin Biro, a former Obama for President regional campaign director, what to expect before the end of the current Congress, he responded, “It’s almost impossible to answer. There’s the CR and possibly something on [raising] the national debt ceiling. In the Senate, I imagine a few judges will get confirmed or at least some senators will want that. I think we will see a bill to codify same-sex marriage in the Senate.”
Biro noted that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) had “said the [same-sex measure] vote would come after the midterms.”
“All in all, it’s a difficult question to answer because we still don’t know who will be Speaker of the House and Senate Majority Leader on January 3,” he said.
Biro noted that he expects that Schumer will want to help Warnock during his runoff campaign.
“I’m just not sure what he can dole out at this point,” he said.
The Republicans’ failure to create a nationwide Election Day “red wave” to decisively put the GOP in control of the next Congress appears to be reshuffling the outlook for the 2024 presidential nomination races in both major political parties.
President Joe Biden drew snickers by predicting a few days before the election that Democrats would do better than expected. Now that they have, he definitely looks strengthened, according to Democratic campaign strategist Christy Setzer.
“Biden’s hand is strengthened, by great election vibes if nothing else,” Setzer told The Epoch Times. “Democrats may have lost the House (or not!), but now we know American voters have had it with election deniers and extremists, and our unfortunate tendency to second-guess our strategy to death will be, for the moment, quelled.”
Biden told reporters the day after the election that his “intention is to run again” and that he doesn’t expect to change anything in his policy agenda as a result of the midterms.
Setzer noted that “progressives will be putting together their lame-duck wish lists and testing the waters for the next session.”
On the Republican side, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis led his party to a smashing statewide victory that saw him defeat Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, a former Republican governor who was elected to Congress as a Democrat, by nearly 20 points.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also won by double digits in his race against Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.), after the contest a month prior to voting looked like it could be close. And the DeSantis-led Florida GOP added four new Republican representatives to the House, amounting to nearly half of the total increase in the House.
The Republicans also carried heavily Democratic Miami–Dade County for the first time since 2002 and effectively converted Florida from a perennial swing state to one of the nation’s most solidly Republican states.
DeSantis, who served in the House prior to winning the governorship in 2018, has governed Florida in the aggressively populist policy approach of former President Donald Trump, but without the continual personal vindictiveness that often characterizes the latter’s approach to campaigning and management.
DeSantis’s prospects as a 2024 presidential contender were so strengthened by the election results that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich said he thinks former President Donald Trump should reconsider his plans to announce his candidacy on Nov. 15.
“I mean, just in my own emails today, the number of people who want somebody other than Trump [and] who have decided, literally overnight, that person is going to be DeSantis. He’s going to find it almost impossible to avoid running,” Gingrich told Just the News.
“I think Trump’s got to look at the results and be troubled. I can tell you, for me, this was not the result I expected. I thought we’d win a lot more seats.”
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who’s retiring and will be replaced by author J.D. Vance, also sees trouble ahead for Trump, telling CNBC that the former president was trailing DeSantis among Republican voters in surveys taken prior to the midterm election.
“I think he is likely to look at the polling data and say he doesn’t want to lose. So I don’t think he goes through with it at the end of the day. He is still a powerful force in the party though, and again, his favorability rating is high. He can play a constructive role,” Portman said.
“In his administration, what he did on tax policy, regulatory policy, foreign policy, even building up the military. I mean a lot of good things he could talk about. That’s what the role is that he ought to be playing. If he does, it could really help the Republican Party.”
From The Epoch Times