The Contentious 2022 Midterms - Who Won, and What’s Next for the Nation
The midterm elections of 2022 shaped the 118th Congress of the United States and were one of the most influential elections of the past decades. Many political analysts predicted the midterms to be a bloodbath for Democrats amid the shaky transition out of the COVID-19 pandemic and record-low approval rates for President Biden. Yet months after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the GOP’s predicted “red wave” failed to surface as many young voters and women voted Democrat. In New York, Republicans flipped key seats that led them to gain a slim majority in the House, but Democrats won 51 seats in the Senate. With the two houses of Congress nearly evenly balanced, some worry that passing legislation will be difficult.
The 118th Congress’ rocky start spells uncertainty as President Biden prepares to preside over a divided government (Matthew Bornhorst/Unsplash).
Results of the Midterms
Nearly 110 million American voters cast their ballots in the 2022 midterms, with voter turnout highest in states with the most competitive races for the Senate or governor’s office. New Hampshire, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Michigan saw the highest jumps in voter turnout.
Top issues varied among age groups in the US. According to a poll by the Edison research National Election Pool, 44 percent of young voters cited abortion as the most important issue in the nation, compared with 32 percent of voters 65+ who said inflation most influenced their vote. Young voters also overwhelmingly voted Democrat, with the national youth vote choice for the House being 63 percent for Democrats compared to 35 percent for Republicans. However, most older Americans cast their ballots for Republicans.
Republicans won 222 seats in the House, giving them a slim advantage over the Democrats, who won 213 seats. Republicans flipped four seats in the Democratic stronghold state of New York, including the seat in NY-03, which George Santos now holds. Some Democrats blamed redistricting for the losses, as many candidates lost large swaths of their previous districts. Meanwhile, in the Senate, Democrats won 51 seats and Republicans 49. Vice President Kamala Harris’s vote in the Senate gives Democrats a bit of breathing room.
Many of former President Trump’s supporters, like Arizona governor candidate Kari Lake and Michigan governor candidate Tudor Dixon, lost in their swing state elections. Across the nation, candidates who denied the legitimacy of the 2020 election overwhelmingly lost. Trump-backed candidates like Mehmet Oz also failed in their races, giving Democrats valuable gains in battleground states like Michigan and Pennsylvania. In short, the midterms were an unexpected success for Democrats and a blow to Republicans who expected to take both the House and the Senate.
How has Congress Fared So Far?
The 118th Congress convened on January 3, 2023 to elect a Speaker of the House. However, the process stretched for days as it took 15 rounds of voting before Kevin McCarthy, a Republican Congressman from California, was elected. A few Republican holdouts, including Matt Gaetz and Lauren Boebert, met with McCarthy to discuss concessions for the more extreme members of the Republican party. These concessions included adding several members of the far-right group, the Freedom Caucus, to the influential House Rules Committee and lowering the number of votes required to vacate the speaker’s chair. Some see these concessions as an early sign of McCarthy’s weak leadership that puts him at the mercy of his party. On the other hand, many Republicans see the new rules as an opportunity to gain more power and pass legislation.
Meanwhile, House Democrats unanimously elected Hakeem Jeffries as House Minority Leader. Jeffries, who succeeded Representative Nancy Pelosi, is the first Black lawmaker to hold the position in Congress. “House Democrats,” he said in a speech before the whole House, “will always put American values over autocracy, benevolence over bigotry, the Constitution over the cult, democracy over demagogues, economic opportunity over extremism, freedom over fascism, governing over gaslighting, hopefulness over hatred, inclusion over isolation, justice over judicial overreach, knowledge over kangaroo courts, liberty over limitation, maturity over Mar-a-Lago, normalcy over negativity, opportunity over obstruction, people over politics, quality of life issues over QAnon, reason over racism, substance over slander, triumph over tyranny, understanding over ugliness, voting rights over voter suppression, working families over the well-connected, xenial over xenophobia, ‘yes, we can’ over ‘you can do it,’ and zealous representation over zero-sum confrontation.”
Representative George Santos brings Controversy to the Republican Party
Representative George Santos of New York’s 3rd Congressional District garnered intense scrutiny and criticism after it was revealed that key details of his biography were fabricated. For example, Santos claimed to be a “proud American Jew” with degrees from Baruch College and New York University who worked for Goldman Sachs and Citigroup. However, following his election, the New York Times released an article that questioned the validity of these claims.
Following widespread backlash from his constituents and New York Democrats, Santos admitted he had not graduated from “any institute of higher learning” and had used a “poor choice of words” when describing his former jobs. “My sins here are embellishing my resume. I’m sorry… I own up to what. We do stupid things in life,” Santos told the New York Post in an interview.
Other accusations, including that Santos stole $3,000 from a GoFundMe campaign for a veteran’s dying dog, that Santos’s mother did not die during 9/11 as he claimed, and that Santos illegally used money for his campaign, have been raised since Santos took office. In addition, according to the New York Times, Brazilian law enforcement revived fraud charges from more than a decade ago against Santos.
Despite the controversy, Speaker of the House McCarthy was initially reluctant to remove Santos from office. “The voters of his district have elected him. He is seated. He is part of the Republican Conference. There are concerns with it, so he will go before Ethics. If anything is found to be --have-- wrong, he will be held accountable, exactly as anybody else in the body would be,” he said.
However, Santos appeared to shift directions in the weeks since Santos was appointed to two House committees. Amid calls for resignation from House Democrats, Republicans, and his constituents, Santos stepped down from both committees. "With the ongoing attention surrounding both my personal and campaign financial investigations, I have submitted a request to Speaker McCarthy that I be temporarily recused from my committee assignments until I am cleared," Santos said in a statement.
Speaker of the House McCarthy told reporters, “Santos stepping down is based upon Santos issues. I think it’s better that Santos is not on committees right now until he clears up these issues.” A Newsday poll found that 78 percent of voters within Santos’s district believe he should resign, and 71 percent said that McCarthy was wrong to appoint Santos to committees. Currently, local and federal prosecutors, including the FBI and the Nassau County district attorney, are investigating Santos.
The Future of the 118th Congress
House Republicans have stated that they intend to investigate the Biden administration following the President’s classified documents crisis. In addition, homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is the subject of an intended investigation as many Republicans believe he worsened the border crisis. “If Secretary Mayorkas does not resign, House Republicans will investigate every order, every action, and every failure to determine whether we can begin an impeachment inquiry,” stated House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
McCarthy has also laid out a legislative agenda called the “Commitment to America” to increase parents’ role in education, increase funding for the police, and roll back funding passed by Democrats in the Inflation Reduction Act. However, many of these measures are unlikely to pass through the Democrat-controlled Senate.
Democrats will aim to pass legislation to expand child tax credit, education reform, and increase funding for Social Security and Medicare. Both parties may find common ground in foreign policy, sending aid to Ukraine and enacting more severe measures against China amid allegations of spying and mistreatment of specific ethnic groups. The Biden Administration has indicated it will work to expand infrastructure and immigration reform, although cooperation between the Legislative and Executive Branch remains uncertain.
Sources & Further Reading