The Democrats’ “blue wave” was indeed a ripple. President Donald Trump’s party had a net gain of three seats in the Senate, but lost the control of the House of Representatives, with a net loss of 26 seats.
The most House seats ever lost by a president for his party in a midterm election was by Barack Obama in 2010. He lost 63. Next was Bill Clinton in 1994 who lost 52. Followed by Dwight Eisenhower who lost 48 seats in 1958, as did Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon in 1974 who lost 48 seats each as well.
What Trump achieved with those Senate seats in the midterm was unprecedented for a Republican. Until recently, no one bothered to talk about Republicans “holding” the House because Republicans had never been in charge of the House for long. Democrats controlled the House for two-thirds of the 20th century, with the exception of two one-term Republican deviations.
Until Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” in 1994, the Democrats had controlled the House for four consecutive decades. The same applied in the Senate except for Reagan’s coattails for six years in the 1980s. Every Republican president of the last half of the twentieth century faced a Democratic House and Senate: Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Bush Sr.
Democrats did not win the House per se, Speaker Paul Ryan Republicans gave it away. Midterm elections generally have low turnout, so motivating your base and persuading them to turn out are crucial.
During the eight months before the midterm election, Republican voters told pollsters that the number one issue facing the country was immigration. Meanwhile, they considered tax reform as one of the least pressing issues.
In a September 2018 Harvard/Harris Poll, 53 percent of Republican voters opined that immigration should be the biggest priority for the Trump administration and the Republican-controlled Congress. According to Reuters, in September 2018, the Number One issue for Republican voters was immigration: 21.1 per cent consider it the most important in determining their vote as opposed to 3.8 per cent for taxes. This made immigration more important to Republican voters than the economy, healthcare, terrorism, etc. Nevertheless, House Republicans surrendered on Trump’s border wall to push Paul Ryan’s ‘Tax Reform 2.0.’
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told Fox News in September 2018: “We still want to get funding for the wall. But we think the best time to have that discussion is after the election.”
Trump was also stiffed by his own party on healthcare, which was a major issue for Democrats in the midterm. After the socialistic Obamacare was enacted in 2010, without a single Republican vote, Republican leaders asked voters to give them control of Congress, and later the White House, to repeal and replace it.
When Trump was sworn in as President, he pledged to sign into law any bill sent him by Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare.
After seven years of planning to repeal and replace Obamacare, House Republicans announced in March 2017 the American Health Care Act as its replacement. The bill was withdrawn a few days later, after it was certain that the House would fail to pass it, because of in-fighting within the Republican Party.
In May 2017, the House voted to pass a watered-down version of the American Health Care Act (and thereby repeal most of Obamacare) by a narrow margin of 217 to 213, sending the bill to the Senate for deliberation. The Senate indicated they would write their own version of the bill, instead of voting on the House version. In July 2017, the Health Care Freedom Act, also known as the “skinny repeal,” was introduced and defeated 49–51, with Republican senators John McCain, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski voting against it along with all the Democrats and Independents.
In September 2017, an amendment to the American Health Care Act was submitted to the Senate. McConnell announced that a vote was planned to occur before September 30th, which was the deadline to pass bills under budget reconciliation. John McCain and Rand Paul indicated that they would vote against the bill. Finally, McConnell stated on September 26th that the Senate would not vote on the bill.
If the Republicans had kept control of the House but held on by a narrow margin, it could have been difficult for Trump to get support for his agenda from some Republicans. For grandstanding, there could be one or two people that would have refused to support him, whereas, on infrastructure and a few items on his agenda, he may be able to count on some Democratic support.
Besides, three Never-Trump Republican Senators (Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and the late John McCain) have been replaced by pro-Trump Senators-elect. Trump also has a better margin of 54-46 for Senate confirmations, unlike the previous 51-49. The Senate, unlike the House, at least confirms judges, cabinet officials, etc.
In January 2017, when Democrats and celebrities started talking of boycotting the inauguration and joining the Resistance, Trump should have performed an inauguration ceremony at the southern border, followed by a laying of the first brick of the border wall. He was not elected to be a conventional president, and the swamp types — the media, bureaucrats, McCain, Ryan, etc. — were determined to obstruct him from the beginning.
Trump may not get legislation on immigration and several items on his agenda from a Pelosi House that could be obsessed with conspiracies and impeachment, but he did not get much from a Ryan House. So the Wall will have to be built by re-purposing some funds from Homeland Security or Defense Department, because he would not get any funding from the Pelosi House, but he got practically nothing for it from the Ryan House.
It is almost two years into the Trump presidency; however, House Republicans have not impeached any of the left-wing judges that hijacked the president’s authority on immigration and national security. Meanwhile, the Republican-controlled Congress has yet to fund the border wall. Earlier in 2018, congressional Republicans actually funded a border wall in Jordan, but banned Trump from using border wall prototypes on the US-Mexico border.
The clear preference of Republican voters did not stop House Republicans from surrendering on Trump’s popular immigration agenda before the midterm election. Rather than focusing on securing the $25 billion expected to build the border wall, Republican lawmakers began peddling their “Tax Reform 2.0” plan. Even Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows — considered a conservative leader in Congress — told the Huffington Post that border wall funding should be postponed to 2019. It was almost like they wanted to lose. The Ryan House of Representatives will not be missed.
Dr. Sheyin-Stevens is a Registered Patent Attorney based in Florida, USA. He earned his Doctorate in Law from the University of Miami.