The United States midterm elections are being held Tuesday. Although these are held every four years, they are being described as particularly important this time.
Houses & seats
The midterm elections are held every four years. They are called midterms because they coincide with the halfway stage of the President’s four-year term. Members will be elected to both houses of Congress. The House of Representatives (lower house) has 435 seats. Members serve two-year terms, so all 435 seats are up for voting The Senate (upper house) has 100 seats. Members serve six-year terms, with elections staggered. This time, 35 Senate seats are going to polls. Additionally, there are also governors’ elections in 36 states, and several polls at state and local levels.
In the House of Representatives, the ruling Republicans hold 240 seats and the Democrats 195. In order to snatch the majority, the Democrats need to gain 23 more seats.
In the Senate, the Republicans hold a slim majority — 51:49. The Democrats, therefore, need to add two seats to their tally. However, this will not be easy. Of the 35 retiring Senators, just 9 are Republicans. In effect, the Democrats would need to hold on to 26 seats and add 2 more — 28 out of 35.
Why it matters
Midterms are always important because they are seen as a referendum on the administration. And traditionally, the party of the sitting President has been losing seats in midterm elections.
This time, there is an added significance because of the likelihood that the two houses of Congress are going to be split. Various analysts have given the Democrats a strong chance of taking control of the House of Representatives, while predicting that the Republicans will hold on to the Senate.
What could happen
If Democrats take control of one house, the Republicans will struggle to get legislation passed. In the 2010 midterms, during the regime of President Barack Obama, Republicans gained control of the Senate and obstructed legislation moved by Democrats.
If the Republicans hold on to both houses, it would embolden current President Donald Trump in pushing laws such as tax cuts, immigration restrictions, and anti-abortion policies.
If the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, they will most likely push for a probe into Trump’s 2016 election campaign, and the alleged Russian meddling. There is a possibility that they may move for impeachment. To actually remove the President by impeachment, however, they would need a two-thirds majority in the Senate.
Issues dominating the midterm discourse are jobs, healthcare, and immigration. The Democrats are blaming Trump’s trade wars with other countries for impacting domestic jobs. They accuse the Republicans of trying to do away with healthcare protections. The Republicans led by Trump, on the other hand, are focusing on immigration, and are blaming the Democrats for being behind the migrant caravan moving from Central America towards the US.