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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 PelosiSenators given no timeline on removal of National Guard, Capitol fence Democratic fury with GOP explodes in House House Republican attempts to appeal fine for bypassing metal detector outside chamber 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 RyanBottom line Ex-Trump chief of staff Priebus mulling Wisconsin governor bid In Marjorie Taylor Greene, a glimpse of the future MORE (R-Wis.) to leave Congress.

Republicans contend that the fight over now-Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughLaurence Tribe: Justice Thomas is out of order on 2020 election LIVE COVERAGE: Senate set to consider Garland for AG A powerful tool to take on the Supreme Court — if Democrats use it right 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) MuellerWhy a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel CNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump 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 SessionsManchin flexes muscle in 50-50 Senate Udalls: Haaland criticism motivated 'by something other than her record' Ocasio-Cortez targets Manchin over Haaland confirmation MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinRosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' Comey argues Trump shouldn't be prosecuted after leaving Oval Office Trump turns his ire toward Cabinet members MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe GOP senators likely to vote for Trump's conviction Mission near impossible: Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon Overnight Defense: Biden administration pausing UAE, Saudi arms sales | Pentagon making climate change national security priority | VA secretary nominee sails through hearing MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenLeft-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' House Republican condemns anti-Trump celebrities during impeachment hearing MORE, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: Interior finalizes plan to open 80 percent of Alaska petroleum reserve to drilling | Justice Department lawyers acknowledge presidential transition in court filing | Trump admin pushes for permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Trump administration pushes for grazing permits for men who inspired Bundy standoff Interior secretary tests positive for COVID-19 after two days of meetings with officials: report 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 SandersKlain says Harris would not overrule parliamentarian on minimum wage increase Romney-Cotton, a Cancun cabbie and the minimum wage debate On The Money: Senate panels postpone Tanden meetings in negative sign | Biden signs supply chain order after 'positive' meeting with lawmakers MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBecerra says he wants to 'build on' ObamaCare when pressed on Medicare for All Yellen deputy Adeyemo on track for quick confirmation Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisEmhoff reflects on interracial marriage case: Without this 'I would not be married to Kamala Harris' WHO: Coronavirus deaths down 20 percent worldwide last week Collins: Biden's .9T coronavirus package won't get any Senate GOP votes 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.