The results from the US 2018 Midterm elections are out — with 223 seats out of 435 the Democrats established control over the House of Representatives, whereas the Republican Party maintained its presence in the Senate with 51 seats out of 100. What does this mean for the future of the US? In the first place we have to understand how the US system works and what each legislative chamber can and cannot do.
The US political system and the 2018 Midterm Elections
The US political system is divided into three main branches — the executive is led by the president and their cabinet; the legislature is controlled by Congress, composed of the lower chamber, The House of Representatives, and the upper chamber, The Senate; and the judiciary consists of the American courts. The US midterm elections concerned namely the distribution of Democratic and Republican seats in Congress — the body that has democratic power over federal law-making and passing or revoking suggested laws.
With a party split between the upper and lower chambers after this election, one cannot help but wonder which chamber of Congress is more influential — The House of Representatives or the Senate? The short answer: it depends on what each one wants to achieve.
The House of Representatives consists of 435 seats and each office-holder maintains their seat for a period of 2 years. The Constitution assigns several exclusive powers to the lower chamber. It can:
- Initiate revenue bills, focusing on methods for raising money (e.g., taxes and tariffs)
- Start the process of impeachment of federal officials
- Elect the President when there is a tie in the Electoral College
The Senate also holds the responsibility to provide government oversight. It is composed of 100 senators, two per state, and is elected every six years. Senators can approve or revoke presidential and Supreme Court justices nominations and international treaties. What is even more important is that during impeachment processes, the Senate becomes the courtroom for the trial, and the senators act as a jury.
A possible impeachment?
When it comes to which chamber is more powerful, it is easy to see that both carry different responsibilities. Before the 2018 Midterms Democratic representatives in the House were preparing themselves to launch an investigation on President Donald Trump, specifically about meddling with the Russia investigation, alleged bribes to several women (who may have been sexually involved with President Trump before the 2016 elections), and misuse of taxpayers’ money. Now that they dominate the House, their investigation can be initiated, which would suggest victory for the Democratic Party and a possible impeachment of the President. Even more so, they can easily disrupt Trump’s agenda on immigration policies and tax cuts.
As good as this sounds, there is a major setback — the Senate. Even though the process of impeachment and any investigation enquiries begin in the House, if they pass, they move to the Senate. In order for the President or any other government official to be impeached, two-thirds of the Senate need to cast a ‘Yay’ vote. With 51 newly- elected Republican senators against 46 Democrats, it seem highly unlikely that the Democratic Party will win this battle.
Essentially, it appears as if nothing has changed and President Trump‘s office would remain unshakable at least until 2020. However, we should not undermine the power vested in the House of Representatives. Lots of ‘fresh’ faces have entered the legislative body — at least 90 Democratic women won an office on Tuesday, and for the first time in history voters elected two Muslim women, Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota. They also opened the way for the first Native-American women in Congress — Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland.
Even though a presidential impeachment seems unlikely, US citizens would arguably expect to see more progressive policy-making. We will have to wait and see.