- The legislative branch of the U.S. federal government, or Congress, is responsible for passing laws. [The White House]
- Congress is broken into two "chambers": (1) the House of Representatives and, (2) the Senate.
- Congress controls what legislation or bills arrive on the president's desk for action. [USAGov]
- To turn a bill into law, the House of Representatives and the Senate have to both pass a majority vote.
- A bill can "die" in either house, meaning it no longer is up for consideration. [USAGov]
- If a president or political party wants specific legislation passed, it becomes more difficult if a split Congress is present.
- Of the estimated 25,000 bills introduced in each term of Congress, only 10% become law. [The Washington Post]
WHY IT MATTERS
Many believe the midterms signal the popularity of the president’s national agenda; if the opposition party retakes both chambers, it likely means that Americans want change.
WHY HAVE MIDTERMS?
In line with the deliberate system of checks and balances on those in power, midterms are a result of specified term limits outlined in the U.S. Constitution. [National Constitution Center]
The House of Representatives and the Senate have different term limits. This balance prevents any singular branch of government from becoming tyrannical. [TIME]
House of Representatives
Representatives serve two-years in the House before constitutionally required to be re-elected or forced out. Representatives can serve an unlimited amount of terms. [Article 1, section 2, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution]
Many believe shorter terms require Representatives to stay in touch with the policy desires of their base.
Senators’ can serve six-year terms in the Senate before constitutionally required to be re-elected or forced out. Senators can serve an unlimited amount of terms. [Article I, section 3, clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution]
Many believe longer terms allow Senators to get work done without worrying about re-election a year into their term.
Election rules are outlined by state and local laws. [The Washington Post]
All representatives are elected by popular vote. [USAGov]
Election Day in the U.S. is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. This year, election day was November 6. [USAGov]
On average, 40% of the eligible voting population cast a vote. By international standards, U.S. voter turn out is low. [Pew Research Center]
“Competitive” races happen when the incumbent (the sitting representative) and his/her challenger are close in the polls. [Vox]
Ballot initiatives give Americans a chance to vote for certain policies. [Ballotpedia]
Each state has different absentee, mail-in, drop-off, or early voting structures. [National Conference of State Legislatures]
Due to strict voter registration requirements, there is little to no proven voter fraud in the U.S.
Across the country, Democrats gained 7 governorships. [The New York Times]
Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah voted to pass the Medicaid Expansion which will insure 300,000 more Americans. [Vox]
Florida voted to give 1.5 million ex-felons the right to vote. [NPR]
Arkansas and North Carolina voted to change voter ID laws. [Vox]
Michigan fully legalized marijuana.Utah and Missouri legalized medical marijuana. North Dakota voted no on legalization to legalize. [Vox]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
Early estimates put voter turnout at 49.2%, a significant increase from the usual 40%. [United States Elections Project]
For the first time, the Trump administration will now deal with a split Congress. [The Washington Post]
The newly Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will propose voting on a bill that attacks corruption in Washington and expands voter registration. [NPR]
- Both branches of Congress have the power of "Investigations and Oversight." [United States House of Representatives]
- Some believe the House will use their power to investigate the Trump administration.
- Likely topics of investigation include potential collusion with Russia [Vox]; violations of the Emoluments Clause [Axios]; James Comey’s firing by President Trump from the CIA. [Axios]
- The Constitution gives the House of Representatives the sole power to impeach an official, and it makes the Senate the sole court for impeachment trials. [United States House of Representatives]
- If the House finds evidence of "Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” [U.S. Constitution, Article II, section 4], they could begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump.
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Will the two-party system in America remain intact? Read an opinion.
Read more about how the 2018 midterms could have ended.
Should Congress have hard term limits? Read 5 reasons why one believes they should.
See how Congress has changed leadership since 1988.
How does gerrymandering play into midterms? Read more here or watch below.