Midterm Mandate: Compromise Urged Amid Newly Split Congressional Control 

US Capitol in Washington DC
US Capitol in Washington DC

From the Hamptons to the Florida Keys, Republicans are poised to recapture a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, but the GOP fell short of flipping Democratic control of the U.S. Senate.

Although pundits’ projections of a red wave of surging Republican voters turning out in opposition to Democratic President Joe Biden came partly true, the results show Democrats were also motivated to cast ballots following the controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, the decision guaranteeing abortion rights nationwide.

With Congress split between both parties as a result, leaders on either side of the aisle will be forced to work together to pass legislation, budgets and appointments.

“We’ve got to focus on getting things done,” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) told reporters after learning that Democrats will maintain their 50-50 split in the chamber with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote. “That means we’re going to have to compromise.”

Democratic Senate control means the president’s allies in his own party will be tasked with confirming executive branch nominees and judges, including for the U.S. Supreme Court, if there are any vacancies in the next two years. Democrats will be able to decide what bills to put on the Senate floor, but Republicans have signaled they plan to use control of the House to bring oversight to the president politically ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Schumer said he intends to sit down with U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and try to find places to agree, even though the two men have traditionally had a frosty relationship. McConnell described the Democrats’ narrow win in the Senate as confirmation of a “closely divided nation.”

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the GOP minority leader, is poised to take over the gavel from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), although by a slimmer margin than many expected. Helping push Republicans over the edge were not only red states like Florida, where the GOP flipped three House seats, but also blue states like New York, where conservative congressional candidates picked up seats in the New York City suburbs, including two on Long Island.

“Tonight — not just here but across the country — was a message to Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and other powers that be that American voters want to stop the runaway spending that has driven up gas and groceries costs, secure the open border that is letting illegal drugs and weapons into our communities, stop relying on foreign nations, some of which are our adversaries, for oil, and stop coddling criminals at the cost of public safety,” said Nick LaLota, the Republican congressman-elect for the East End of LI. “When I’m sworn in on January 3, I’ll work with the new Republican House Majority to bring responsible and transparent government back to Washington.”

LaLota replaces outgoing U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who, instead of seeking re-election, ran a losing gubernatorial bid in a failed attempt to unseat Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul. Zeldin got traction campaigning on a promise to address rising crime, but Hochul kept her job as the Empire State’s first female governor while reminding voters of Zeldin’s anti-abortion stance and defense of former President Donald Trump.

For his part, Trump waited a week after Election Day to announce his Republican candidacy for the White House, setting up a potential rematch of the 2020 presidential election between him and Biden. But the GOP’s less-than-expected midterm results put a damper on his declaration during a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, where he has faced criticism that he is to blame for Republicans not winning more seats.

Donald Trump speaks at Grumman Studios in Bethpage on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 (Long Island Press photo)
Donald Trump speaks at Grumman Studios in Bethpage on Wednesday, April 6, 2016 (Long Island Press photo)

“America’s comeback starts right now,” Trump told cheering supporters.

Another campaign is a remarkable turn for any former president, much less one who made history as the first to be impeached twice and whose term ended with his supporters violently storming the U.S. Capitol in a deadly bid to halt the peaceful transition of power on January 6, 2021. Just one president in U.S. history has been elected to two nonconsecutive terms: Grover Cleveland in 1884 and 1892.

Trump is also facing a series of intensifying criminal investigations, including a Justice Department probe into the hundreds of documents with classified markings that were discovered in boxes and drawers at Mar-a-Lago. His company was on trial for criminal tax fraud in Manhattan during the announcement and Congress has subpoenaed Trump to testify in its ongoing probe of the Capitol riots.

Trump is hoping to stave off a long list of potential challengers, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who cruised to reelection and is now being urged by many in his party to run for president as well. Trump has already begun to lash out at DeSantis publicly and the Florida governor shot back, dismissing the criticism as “noise.”

“At the end of the day, I would just tell people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night,” DeSantis told reporters.

Trump has tried to blame McConnell for the GOP’s performance — and McConnell allies have criticized Rick Scott, the Florida senator who heads the Senate Republicans’ campaign committee.

However, Trump has received the brunt of criticism for elevating candidates in states like Pennsylvania and Arizona who were unappealing to voters because they embraced his lies about the 2020 election or held hard-line views on issues like abortion that were out of step with the mainstream. While Trump has the backing of the No. 3 House Republican, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), others were already moving on. Some were torn.

U.S. Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fort Pierce), who is considered DeSantis’ closest ally in Congress yet received Trump’s endorsement for re-election and represents the district that includes Palm Beach, has not indicated which way he’ll lean in a possible primary between the two.

He told CNN, “In a hypothetical of things, both of them have my support.”

-With Associated Press

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