In this week between Christmas and the New Year, I follow up on my Thanksgiving week Alert, and again look at the 2018 election. While I continue to think that Republicans will maintain control of the Senate, this Alert looks at the impact that some alternative 2018 scenarios may have.
If, contrary to my expectation, the Democrats gain control of the Senate, this will have a profound impact on President Trump’s ability to get judicial appointments confirmed. It will also effectively preclude passage of any major legislation. If the Democrats gain control of the House of Representatives but not the Senate, this will also preclude passage of major legislation, but President Trump will continue to have judicial and other appointments confirmed with relative ease.
If the Republicans Lose the Senate, They Will also Lose the House
As I discussed in the earlier Alert, many more at risk Democratic Senate seats are being contested in 2018. If the Democrats manage to make enough gains to take control in the Senate, gaining control of the House is virtually certain.
If the Democrats take control of both the House and the Senate: 1) Very few judicial nominees will be approved, and confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee will be almost impossible; 2) No significant legislation will pass; 3) A federal government shutdown will be more likely; and 4) President Trump will face a serious challenge for the 2020 Republican nomination.
In this scenario, my sense is that President Trump will try to get appointments confirmed and perhaps some reconciliation legislation during the “lame duck” time, after the 2018 election but while the current Senate remains in power.
If a new Democratic controlled Congress convenes in January 2019, I predict that President Trump will then “double down” in appealing to his base. He will focus on the 2020 nomination process, and try to avoid becoming the first elected president since Franklin Pierce not to receive his own party’s nomination for a second term. He will nominate judges that appeal to his base, and welcome the Senate’s refusals to confirm them. He will tell his base that he remains their champion, especially in the management of the many federal agencies. He may even veto basic appropriation legislation and cause a shutdown of the federal government. This scenario will yield a gridlock that has not been seen in decades.
Republicans May Keep the Senate but Lose the House
Given the challenges to Democrats that the Senate poses, another possible scenario is that Democrats take control of the House of Representatives, but Republicans maintain control of the Senate. (The reverse is highly unlikely; if the Democrats are able to take the Senate, taking the House is a near certainty.)
In this scenario, President Trump’s nominations will continue to sail through the Senate, as the House plays no role in the confirmation process. Otherwise, I expect legislative gridlock in this scenario, with the Senate leadership generally refusing to consider any major legislation passed by the House.
I wish all of you a great 2018!