POLITICS

Split Midterm Results Don't Bode Well For Prospect Of Congressional Dealmaking

The next Congress will see fewer moderates who are more willing to strike a deal.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

WASHINGTON ― Don’t expect many bipartisan compromises next year with a Democratic House and an emboldened Republican majority in the Senate.

Because of the lopsided results in Tuesday’s midterm election, the next Congress will be composed of fewer moderate lawmakers who have historically been instrumental in hammering out agreements on policy and the budget.

In the Senate, the GOP ousted moderate Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. They may also end up unseating Bill Nelson of Florida, a centrist Democrat whose extremely tight race is headed for a recount. The people who will be replacing them all embraced President Donald Trump and are expected to be safe votes for his agenda. The president will encounter far less pushback with his two biggest GOP critics ― Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona ― stepping down as well.

Meanwhile, in the House, Democrats won control by flipping a number of districts held by more moderate GOP members ― people like Reps. Peter Roskam and Mark Hultgren of Illinois, and Carlos Curbelo of Florida. They also ousted many of Trump’s most vocal allies, people like Reps. Claudia Tenney of New York and Dave Brat of Virginia. The end result will mean a more partisan atmosphere in the lower chamber as well.

Except on issues where the president can try to be some kind of dealmaker, it’s hard to see where compromise would come and what the political benefit on either side would be. Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee

“Except on issues where the president can try to be some kind of dealmaker, it’s hard to see where compromise would come and what the political benefit on either side would be,” said Doug Heye, a former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “Given the grab-bag nature of last night’s results, both sides have something they can take to their base. That means potentially neither side learns a lesson from the elections and our political divide only increases.”

Both Republicans and Democrats have talked up the prospect of compromise on new infrastructure investment next year. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who is expected to regain the speakership next year, said she spoke to the president about moving forward on one of his key campaign promises.

“Hopefully, we can work in a bipartisan way,” Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday, pointing to how House Democrats worked with Ronald Reagan during his administration.

But while they agree on the need to overhaul the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and waterways, the two parties don’t see eye to eye on how to pay for it. Democrats want more infrastructure spending. Republicans prefer private investment to take the lead ― especially with deficits approaching over $1 trillion next year.

Lowering prescription drug prices is another potential area of agreement. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters Wednesday that discussions regarding drug prices would be “on the agenda” in coming months. Trump has said on multiple occasions that drug companies are “getting away with murder,” but Democrats have found his plan to address the problem lacking.

“[Trump] has pulled his punch on it so far,” Pelosi said in an PBS NewsHour interview earlier this week. 

Throughout his life, Trump has prided himself on being a dealmaker. Yet despite making a number of appeals to bipartisanship on issues like gun control and immigration throughout his administration, he’s stuck to his base and shunned Democrats as crime-loving “radicals” who support open borders. He flashed his anger once more Wednesday by threatening not to work with Democrats in coming months if they decide to launch investigations of his personal finances and other matters.

“If they’re doing that, we’re not doing the other,” Trump said at a White House press conference.

Pelosi brushed off Trump’s tough talk during her own post-election press conference later in the day, however.

“We have a constitutional authority to have oversight,” Pelosi said. “We’ll know what we’re doing. And we’ll do it right.”

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