As Republicans and Democrats have been jockeying for a political majority this election season, it is clear that the 2022 midterms have the potential to dramatically change the landscape of Congress. Over the past 75 years, the incumbent president’s party has lost, on average, 28 House seats and four Senate seats in his first midterm election. The current administration’s party has only been able to gain seats in both houses twice over that same time span.
President Joe Biden’s approval rating will likely play a role in how Democrats fare this November. Gallup’s latest poll has Biden at 40%, which could spell trouble for liberals. From 1936-2018, six other presidents have had approval ratings in the range of 40-45% ahead of the midterms. Their parties lost an average of four Senate seats and thirty six House seats.
Republicans need just five seats to reclaim the speaker’s gavel, while Senate control is hanging by just a single seat. If the GOP can win a majority, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., has promised support for tax cuts and reductions in government spending. Further aid to Ukraine is poised to be among those proposed cuts.
“I think Ukraine is very important. I support making sure that we move forward to defeat Russia in that program. But there should be no blank check on anything. We are $31 trillion in debt,” McCarthy said on CNBC. “Wouldn’t you want a check and balance in Congress? Wouldn’t you want this hardworking taxpayers’ money, someone overseeing it? We’ve got to eliminate the wasteful spending in Washington.”
Additional Republican priorities include discontinuing the Jan. 6 committee hearings, while opening new investigations into the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, and President Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. There is also talk among the rank-and-file of impeachment hearings for members of the president’s cabinet, including the commander-in-chief himself. However, McCarthy has downplayed the prospect of any impeachments.
Meanwhile, despite historical foreshadowing, Democrats have remained at least outwardly confident at their chances of midterm success.
“The media has been saying, ‘Oh it’s gone, the president’s party always loses in an off year,’ and now we’re down to the stretch, and we’re down to very close races, and we feel very confident,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said on Face the Nation.
Democratic interests are partly focused on defending Social Security and Medicare, two programs Republicans hope to reform. Abortion rights have also taken center stage in Democrats’ campaign messaging. Biden has vowed that, if Democrats maintain control of Congress, the first bill he sends to Capitol Hill next year will be one to codify abortion rights afforded by Roe v. Wade.
“Here’s the promise that I make to you and the American people, the first bill that I will send to the Congress will be to codify Roe v. Wade,” Biden said during a Democratic National Committee speech at Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C.