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Election fallout: What to watch for now

Election fallout: What to watch for now
© Greg Nash

Both sides can say they won the 2018 midterm elections.

Democrats regained the House majority for the first time since 2010.

Republicans not only held but added to their majority in the upper chamber.

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That split decision won't likely lead to a lot of deal-making in the new Congress next year, though both House Democrats and Senate Republicans will need to point to accomplishments when their majorities will be up for grabs in 2020.

Here's what to look for the rest of 2018 and into the new year.

Leadership battles

The focus will be on the House and the big question is: Who will be the next Speaker? Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Clyburn says some critics are using race to oppose his leadership bid Congress can unite on global affairs MORE (D-Calif.) is the odds-on favorite, but she will have to offer concessions to restless members of the Democratic Caucus who have publicly called for new leadership.

Pelosi, 78, has already floated the notion of being a “transitional” Speaker, though that is unlikely to win over her Democratic critics. And what exactly does “transitional” mean? Is that two, four or six more years? Pelosi will be pressed on this question. However, Pelosi has the experience of leading the House during a Republican president and passing landmark legislation, most notably the Affordable Care Act.

Finger-pointing

Republicans already were finger-pointing before the election about losing the House and that will only intensify now. House Republicans will blame the White House, and the president will likely point to the large number (44) of House GOP retirements — including the decision by Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanEarmarks look to be making a comeback Former staffers push Congress for action on sexual harassment measure House Republicans need history lesson in battle over next leader MORE (R-Wis.) to leave Congress.

Republicans contend that the fight over now-Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMellman: The triumph of partisanship Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Trump tweets about Diwali, draws criticism for not mentioning Hindus in initial posts MORE and immigration rhetoric helped cement their Senate majority. But there will be much debate over whether that closing argument hurt the GOP cause to save the House.

While House Republicans are licking their wounds, Senate Republicans will aggressively seek to confirm more of Trump's judges, and perhaps another Supreme Court justice over the next two years. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats will need to regroup and again try to win back the majority in 2020. 

Russia investigation

It's unclear when Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE will wrap up his investigation on alleged collusion between Russia and Trump's 2016 campaign. But with the election now over, most expect more news from the special counsel over the next several weeks or months. If House Democrats disagree with what Mueller finds, they will have the option of launching their own investigation next year.

Impeachment 

A number of Democrats and liberals are itching to begin impeachment proceedings against Trump, something Democratic leaders have sought to contain. Democrats at the beginning of next year will be able to do so, even though it might not be in their best political interests. It's a decision that will weigh on Democratic leaders and Democrats maneuvering to take on Trump in 2020.

Possible White House staff shake-up

Will Trump shake things up again and bring new blood into the White House? Despite constant speculation that White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE has one foot out the door, Trump publicly committed to him staying on until 2020.

Others to watch include Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsGraham backs bill to protect Mueller Democrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Whitaker’s past business dealings under scrutiny MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinDemocrats in murky legal water with Whitaker lawsuits Maryland asks court to replace Whitaker with Rosenstein as acting AG Feinstein requests Senate hearings with Whitaker, Sessions MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress Trump eyes post-midterm shakeup First lady's office says Bolton aide 'no longer deserves the honor' of serving White House MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenBill cementing cybersecurity agency at DHS heads to Trump's desk Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress Hillicon Valley: Trump eyes staff shake-up | Amazon taps NYC, Northern Virginia for new offices | What it will mean for DC | Tech firms buck Trump on cyber pact | Defense official warns against hacking back MORE, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeDeath toll in Northern California wildfire rises to 48: authorities Overnight Energy: EPA weighs tougher pollution rule for trucks | Zinke to visit California wildfire areas | EPA official indicted in Alabama Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl feeds firefighters in California MORE and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Trump’s victories in the Senate will only make it easier for him to muscle through new nominees to replace officials such as Sessions. With a 51-49 majority, replacing Sessions might have been difficult. With a majority as large as 54 or 55 seats, it’s a lot easier.

2020 politics 

There could be more than 30 major Democratic presidential candidates, with roughly a half-dozen senators expected to launch a bid for the nomination.

As is customary, likely 2020 candidates such as Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersProgressive House Dem pushes for vote on 'Medicare for all' bill Castro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Election Countdown: Lawsuits fly in Florida recount fight | Nelson pushes to extend deadline | Judge says Georgia county violated Civil Rights Act | Biden, Sanders lead 2020 Dem field in poll | Bloomberg to decide on 2020 by February MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCastro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid What midterm exit polls tell us about 2020 Deval Patrick: Obama was too eager to compromise with GOP MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCastro takes steps toward likely 2020 bid Pavlich: Where is Brett Kavanaugh’s apology? Kamala Harris celebrates electoral victory of 19 black women in Texas: ‘#BlackGirlMagic’ MORE (D-Calif.) have said their attention was on the midterms. Now they and many others have to make decisions on whether to get in, and more importantly, when to get in. 

Government shutdown 

Lawmakers and the administration face a Dec. 7 funding deadline, and the chances of another government shutdown are significant. Trump wants a lot more funding for his border wall, which the left despises. Coming off a big win in the House, Democratic leaders in the lower chamber will be quite entrenched in their opposition to Trump's wall initiative.