The Republicans won 51 Senate seats, the Democrats won 46. Independents who will caucus with Democrats won two seats. One seat is subject to a run-off election in Mississippi and two seats are in races so close a definitive winner has yet to be announced.
Republicans Gain in the Senate
In an alert about a year ago, I predicted the Republicans would gain seats in the Senate. It appears I was correct. Incumbent Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith will probably win the Mississippi run-off, giving the Republicans 52 seats. In the races not yet determined, if Rick Scott maintains his lead in Florida, Republicans will have 53 seats. It is possible Martha McSally could still win in Arizona, but Democrat Krysten Sinema appears to have a slight lead.
With at least 52 Republican seats, the Trump administration will be able to have its executive agency and judicial nominees routinely confirmed. Under current Senate rules, 50 Senate votes plus the vote of Vice President Pence will confirm a nominee. Thus, even if two Republican Senators object to a nominee (Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska are generally considered less likely to vote in line with their party.), the nominee will still be confirmed.
Democrats Take the House
In the prior alert, I also predicted Republicans would keep a majority in the House of Representatives. I was wrong. Despite many congressional districts drawn to help Republicans, the mid-year tide was too much and the Democrats will have a majority in the House.
President’s Nominees Will Be Confirmed; Continued Challenges for Legislation
The House plays no role in confirming agency or judicial nominees. This may explain why President Trump seemed to view the Senate outcome as much more important. With even more solid Republican control of the Senate, the Trump administrations nominees will continue to be confirmed.
Democratic control of the House means Republicans will no longer be able to pass legislation on party-line votes using the reconciliation process, which requires simple majorities from both houses of Congress. Only specific types of legislation can be passed through reconciliation. Under Senate rules, all other legislation requires 60 votes in the Senate, a rule that precluded the passage of much legislation since President Trump took office, even legislation favored by the President and both the House and Senate leadership.
While the split in the legislative branch will continue to make passing legislation a challenge, to the extent the Democratic House leadership and the Republican Senate leadership can agree on legislation, passage is quite likely. Increased infrastructure spending is often mentioned as an area of potential agreement.