The Democratic Party kept control of the Senate in the midterm elections, repelling Republican efforts to retake the chamber and making it harder for them to thwart President Joe Biden’s agenda. The House of Representatives elections, on the other hand, resulted in a very narrow Republican majority. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s shock victory in Nevada gave Democrats the 50 seats they needed to keep the Senate. Her win reflects the surprising strength of Democrats across the US this election year. Seeking reelection in an economically challenged state that has some of the highest gas prices in the nation, Cortez Masto was considered the Senate’s most vulnerable member, adding to the frustration of Republicans who were confident she could be defeated.
“We got a lot done and we’ll do a lot more for the American people,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in response to the results. “The American people rejected — soundly rejected — the anti-democratic, authoritarian, nasty and divisive direction the MAGA Republicans wanted to take our country.” With the results in Nevada now decided, Georgia is the only state where both parties are still competing for a Senate seat. Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock faces Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a December 6 runoff. Alaska’s Senate race has advanced to ranked-choice voting, though the seat will stay in Republican hands.
Democratic control of the Senate ensures a smoother process for President Joe Biden’s Cabinet appointments and judicial picks, including those for potential Supreme Court openings. The party will also keep control over committees and have the power to conduct investigations or oversight of the Biden administration, and will be able to reject legislation sent over by the House of Representatives. In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, President Biden said of the election results: “I feel good. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years.” He said winning the 51st seat from the Georgia runoff would be important and allow Democrats to boost their standing on Senate committees. “It’s just simply better,” Biden said. “The bigger the number, the better.”
The fight for Senate control hinged on a handful of deeply contested seats. Both parties spent tens of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania, Arizona, New Hampshire, Washington, Connecticut, Colorado, Nevada, and Georgia, the top battlegrounds where Democrats had hoped that Republicans’ decision to nominate untested candidates, many backed by former President Donald Trump, would help them defy national headwinds. Democrats scored a big win in Pennsylvania, where Lt. Governor ohn Fetterman defeated celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was endorsed by Trump, to pick up a seat currently held by a Republican. Arizona Senator Mark Kelly won reelection by about 5 percentage points against Trump-supporting Republican Blake Masters.
Heading into the midterm election, Republicans focused relentlessly on the economy, a top concern for many voters amid stubborn inflation and high gas and food prices. The Republicans also hit Democrats on crime, a message that sometimes overstated the threat but nonetheless tapped into anxiety, particularly among the suburban voters who turned away from the party in 2018 and 2020. And they highlighted illegal border crossings, accusing Biden and other Democrats of failing to protect the country. But Democrats were buoyed by voters angry about the Supreme Court’s June decision overturning the constitutional right to an abortion. They also portrayed Republicans as too extreme and a threat to democracy, following January 6, 2021, insurrection at the US Capitol and Trump’s false claims, repeated by many Republican candidates, that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democratic candidates’ promises to defend abortion rights resonated with voters. He said the election results made him feel good about the country and its commitment to democracy. “We knew that the negativity, the nastiness, the condoning of Donald Trump’s big lie — and saying that the elections were rigged when there’s no proof of that at all — would hurt Republicans, not help them,” Schumer said. “But too many of them, and their candidates, fell into those traps.” Referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan, Schumer said voters had rejected “extremist MAGA Republicans.”