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 PelosiPelosi uses Trump to her advantage Fake Pelosi video sparks fears for campaigns Trump goes scorched earth against impeachment talk 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 RyanAmash storm hits Capitol Hill Debate with Donald Trump? Just say no Ex-Trump adviser says GOP needs a better health-care message for 2020 MORE (R-Wis.) to leave Congress.

Republicans contend that the fight over now-Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughMurkowski celebrates birthday with electric scooter ride Graham urges Trump not to abandon infrastructure talks with Democrats 2020 Dems break political taboos by endorsing litmus tests 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 (Bob) Swan MuellerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump orders more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions Trump: Democrats just want Mueller to testify for a 'do-over' Graham: Mueller investigation a 'political rectal exam' 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 SessionsTrump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Five takeaways from Barr's new powers in 'spying' probe Amash: Some of Trump's actions 'were inherently corrupt' MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWhy Mueller may be fighting a public hearing on Capitol Hill Jake Tapper fact-checks poster Trump admin created describing Mueller investigation Jeffrey Rosen officially sworn in as deputy attorney general MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation Trump's nastiest break-ups: A look at the president's most fiery feuds Shanahan orders new restrictions on sharing of military operations with Congress: report MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenTrump Citizenship and Immigration Services head out at agency Congressional Hispanic Caucus demands answers on death of migrant children Trump expected to tap Cuccinelli for new immigration post MORE, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeSenate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats Interior's border surge puts more officers in unfamiliar role Not 'if' but 'when' is the next Deepwater Horizon spill? 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 SandersBernie SandersJames Carville: Biden represents 'stability' not 'generational change' Ocasio-Cortez, progressives trash 'antisemitic' Politico illustration of Bernie Sanders 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump defense pick expected to face tense confirmation 2020 Democrats target federal ban on abortion funding Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSan Francisco police chief apologizes for raid on journalist's home Gillibrand seizes on abortion debate to jump-start campaign Senate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk 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.