Democrats are projected to keep their hold on the U.S. Senate after winning a key race in Nevada on Saturday, giving President Joe Biden’s party control of at least one chamber of Congress for the next two years.
The Associated Press called Nevada’s Senate race for Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, giving Democrats a 50-seat count in the chamber. With Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, Democrats will keep control.
The House of Representatives, meanwhile, remained undecided late Saturday but appears to favor Republicans. The GOP has 211 seats to Democrats’ 203, with 218 needed for a majority. Political handicappers give Democrats just a slim chance for taking the House.
Should Republicans win control of even the House alone, the GOP is expected to deliver a check on Biden’s policy priorities, such as by potentially using a debt-ceiling showdown to force spending cuts.
But holding the Senate gives Biden some advantages, as GOP control could have meant roadblocks for his cabinet picks or other officials.
Democrats have had a grip on the House since the 2018 midterms. They’ve run the Senate for two years, controlling the 50-50 chamber only because Harris can cast tiebreaking votes. Each party has a chance to pick up an extra vote after a Dec. 6 runoff in Georgia between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker.
Democrats in the last two years have used party-line votes to push through measures such as March 2021’s stimulus law and this past summer’s package targeting healthcare, climate change and taxes.
The House switching to red from blue would fit the historical pattern in which a first-term president’s party tends to lose congressional ground in the midterms.
Republicans’ majority is expected to be narrow, however, and that’s already creating turbulence for the House GOP leadership. Some members of the House Freedom Caucus say they’re opposed to Kevin McCarthy, the current House minority leader, becoming the chamber’s next speaker.
Analysts had said voters in October and November appeared increasingly focused on Republican issues such as high prices for gasoline
and other essentials, at the expense of Democrats’ agenda items like abortion rights.
Exit polls suggested that Republicans performed worse than expected because many Democrats and independents voted partly to show their disapproval of former President Donald Trump — and those voters were energized by the Supreme Court’s June decision that overturned Roe v. Wade.