November Election Could See a Historic Switch in House and Senate Majorities

With national and swing state polls indicating support between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump is fairly even, casual political observers could be forgiven for not realizing that House and Senate races are also tight; there could be a historic switch in the House and Senate majorities this November. 

In the Senate, where Democrats currently hold a two-seat majority at 51-49, Republicans are projected to pick up the West Virginia seat from retiring Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, which would make it a 50-50 Senate, with the next vice president casting the deciding vote. Adding to their challenges, two Democratic senators in states projected to go for Trump (Ohio and Montana) are likely to face serious challenges in their reelection efforts.

In Ohio, three-term Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown will face Republican businessman Bernie Moreno. Polls taken before the primary favored Brown; however, Biden lost the state in 2020, and has trailed in state polling by more than 10 percentage points. 

In Montana, Democratic Senator John Tester is also seeking a fourth term, and while Republicans will have to wait until June 4 to choose their nominee, a recent poll has the incumbent trailing Republican front-runner Tim Sheehy in a state where Trump has led most polls by 20 points. Democrats also face tight races in Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Maryland, where popular former Republican Governor Larry Hogan has announced his candidacy.

While maintaining the majority in the Senate increasingly looks like an uphill climb for the Democrats, the House is beginning to appear full of races where the wind is at their back. Congressional redistricting is greatly influencing Democratic opportunities as candidates in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina, New York and Ohio will be running in new Congressional districts in November. From these new maps, Democrats are likely to gain a seat in Alabama, and will see more favorable opportunities in Louisiana, Georgia and New York. Republicans could see more favorable maps for their races in North Carolina and New Mexico. Thus far, Biden is leading in the polls in 37 of the 53 most competitive House races across the country. 

This is continued bad news for House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), who has faced challenges once considered unimaginable since taking the gavel in October of last year. Adding to those challenges, Congressman Michael Gallagher (R-WI) will officially resign his House seat at the end of this week, further reducing the Republican majority in the body to 218-213. This will create a situation where the embattled speaker will have a five-seat majority, which in practice means that he can only lose two votes on the floor without losing the majority. The stark divisions among the historically narrow House Republican majority have made it nearly impossible to gain a consensus on any substantive legislation without relying on Democratic support for passage. 

Johnson’s concessions on spending and national security measures have created even more unrest among House Republicans, with Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) recently filing a motion to vacate the chair if the Speaker allows Ukraine aid legislation to be considered on the House floor.

Historically, the minority party has supported such motions, as seen during the ouster of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and if Greene goes through with her threat before the May 21special election in California to replace McCarthy, she will only need two other Republicans to support her effort to remove Johson as speaker.  

Should such an ouster occur, and/or House Republicans fail to approve appropriations legislation that can pass the Senate and be signed by Biden before the end of September, the federal government could once again face a shutdown. Democratic candidates in the previously mentioned 53 competitive House races will have a strong case to make to voters in November. 

With this year’s presidential election being a rematch of 2020, and both candidates maintaining historically high disapproval ratings, it is difficult to predict who will win in November. However, if current trends continue, the majorities in both the House and the Senate could flip for the first time in the nation’s history. The 2017 tax law will expire at the end of 2025, and the majority party in the House of Representatives will have significant influence on the future of tax provisions that are important to commercial real estate, such as, like-kind exchanges (Sec. 1031) and carried interest, as well as the creation of tax credits for adaptive reuse.

You Might Also Like