Congress paralyzed by deadlocked midterm races
Highlighting the uncertainty, the Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell walked into the empty Capitol on Thursday and noticed that there was nothing to do but hold tight.
“I’m like all of you. I’m just watching and waiting when they finish counting the votes,” McConnell said, before noting one of the few concrete realities: “Schumer will still be the majority leader for the rest of the year.”
Broadly speaking, operatives in both parties believe Kelly is likely to win Arizona in the end. There is much less agreement on Cortez Masto’s race against GOP rival Adam Laxalt in Nevada; if she breaks it, it could decide whether Democrats hold onto the majority regardless of Georgia’s December 6 runoff.
A senior Republican strategist said “there are still a lot of good votes to count for the Republicans, and we’re optimistic” about Laxalt. Democrats feel similarly good about Cortez Masto: One who has worked on statewide races in Nevada said the extraordinary ballots in the state’s two metropolitan districts were “bad enough for Catherine that it should put her over the top.”
In the House of Representatives, the GOP still has a narrow hold on the majority, and Kevin McCarthy has officially launched his campaign for speaker. But with dozens of uncalled races across the West Coast, especially California, it’s entirely possible the House could reconvene next Monday without knowing which party will hold the gavel next year.
“Compared to how I felt last weekend? I feel great,” Sen said. Mark Warner (D-Va.). “The fact that it’s been two days since the election and we still don’t know who is the majority in the House? It’s extraordinary.”
All that uncertainty could affect efforts to get a big spending bill together by Dec. 16, the current government shutdown deadline. Leaders of both parties wanted to prioritize the bill after the election, but its contours could be determined by whether Republicans think they have a shot at unified control of Congress next year.
“Obviously, we on the House side want to do that in this Congress, and the Republicans don’t,” the retired lawmaker said. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.). “It’s really a question of whether the Senate can act.”
The Senate moves much more slowly than the House, so unfinished business weighs heavily on its post-election schedule. Democrats hope to pass a spending bill, strengthen protections for same-sex marriage, reform the Election Counting Act that governs the certification of presidential elections — as well as a clear Sen. Joe Manchin‘s (DW.Va.) Energy Permit Reform Act.
With filibusters in mind, there’s no guarantee that everything can be done, especially as Republicans look at a favorable 2024 Senate battleground map.
“I’m in favor of Shelley Moore Capito’s version of the permit bill, not Joe Manchin’s version,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), his party’s top member of the Energy Committee. “Why do you only need this for Joe Manchin in West Virginia? … He was a stamp on Joe Biden. He will be responsible in West Virginia. He will be on the ballot in 2024.”
Manchin responded to the joke: “I consider Ranking Member Barrasso a friend, so I’m sure that comment was taken out of context.”
Across the Capitol, there’s little chance Democrats could pull off a political gravity-defying feat and hang on to their majority. That would surely stun both parties, especially in the lower house, where many Democrats have been quietly steeling themselves for the minority — despite months of rosy predictions from the president Nancy Pelosi and its leadership team.
Pelosi herself, who was expected to announce her future plans after Nov. 8, instead went to a global climate summit in Egypt while the House is still undecided.
No signal from Pelosi or her top deputies, the House majority leader Hoyer Walls (D-Md.) or Domestic Whip Jim Clyburn (DS.C.), exists there is still no public bidding about who could take his place in the caucus.
Democrats on Thursday scheduled a leadership election for Nov. 30, but a number of members hoping to succeed their so-called “Big Three” cannot know which position they are actually running for until a majority is established. And that’s assuming Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn decide to vacate the top three seats.
Even the Democratic primary campaign arm race — now wide open after the seat of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (DN.Y.) lost his re-election battle – has yet to take off. Two California Democrats are expected to vie for the position, Reps. Tony Cardenas and Ami Beraare mom while waiting for a house call.
And while much less of a shakeup is expected on the Senate side, some Republicans want the party to change course. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote in the Wall Street Journal that “regular members should only vote for leaders who commit to passing a budget that initiates a fiscally conservative appropriations process.”
Caitlin Emma contributed reporting.
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