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 PelosiTim Ryan slams McCarthy for mocking Capitol physician, mask mandate McCarthy knocks Pelosi, mask mandate: 'This House has broken the country's trust' Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal 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 RyanRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Juan Williams: Biden's child tax credit is a game-changer Trump clash ahead: Ron DeSantis positions himself as GOP's future in a direct-mail piece MORE (R-Wis.) to leave Congress.

Republicans contend that the fight over now-Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughAn obscure Supreme Court ruling is a cautionary tale of federal power Murkowski leans into record ahead of potentially bruising reelection bid Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump 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) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 SessionsWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Democrat stalls Biden's border nominee Garland strikes down Trump-era immigration court rule, empowering judges to pause cases MORE, Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump Trump says Gen. Milley 'last person' he'd want to start a coup with Overnight Defense: Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld dies at 88 | Trump calls on Milley to resign | House subpanel advances Pentagon spending bill MORE, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenKirstjen Michele NielsenEx-Trump official: 'No. 1 national security threat I've ever seen' is GOP Left-leaning group to track which companies hire former top Trump aides Rosenstein: Zero tolerance immigration policy 'never should have been proposed or implemented' MORE, Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeWant to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Biden launches blitz for jobs plan with 'thank you, Georgia' OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Court sets in motion EPA ban on pesticide linked to developmental issues | Trump Interior Secretary Zinke files to run for Congress, again | Senate passes bipartisan B water infrastructure bill 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 SandersBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Lawmakers can't reconcile weakening the SALT cap with progressive goals Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenPelosi disputes Biden's power to forgive student loans Warren hits the airwaves for Newsom ahead of recall election Human rights can't be a sacrificial lamb for climate action MORE (D-Mass.) and Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWhy in the world are White House reporters being told to mask up again? Want to improve vaccine rates? Ask for this endorsement Biden celebrates anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act 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.