WASHINGTON (BP) – The next Congress will be a divided one.
The Associated Press (AP) declared a winner in a California election race Wednesday (Nov. 16) that, as a result, gave Republicans 218 seats and the majority in the next House of Representatives. The call more than a week after the Nov. 8 election means each political party will control a chamber when the 118th Congress convenes in January after Democrats owned majorities in both houses in the current session.
In each case, the party in control will have a slim majority. As of 1 p.m. CST Thursday (Nov. 17), AP’s results showed a 218-211 margin for the GOP in the House. Winners in six races have yet to be determined, according to AP.
Meanwhile, Democrats maintained control of the Senate by what may prove to be the narrowest of margins once again. The Democrats hold a 50-49 edge with the winner in Georgia yet to be determined. The race between Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker will be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff.
If Warnock loses, the Democrats will retain control in an evenly divided chamber. A 50-50 division, which has been true the last two years, will still give them the majority by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.
Little significant progress is to be expected from a divided Congress with slender majorities, but opportunities will exist for Southern Baptist public witness, Brent Leatherwood told Baptist Press.
“Many expected Republican gains in Congress, especially the House,” said Leatherwood, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “But almost no one predicted it would result in such a slim majority for GOP representatives. With Democrats retaining control of the U.S. Senate, we should expect one thing: Gridlock.
“Because of that, my expectations are low for anything consequential in Congress being accomplished on the issues that are important for our convention of churches,” he said in written comments. “But, at the same time, it will likely mean a helpful check on some of the areas of disagreement we have with the agenda put forth by the Biden administration on matters related to abortion and SOGI [sexual orientation/gender identity] initiatives.
“But the bottom line for the next two years is that if either side wants to advance something meaningful, it will require bipartisan consensus building. And ‘bipartisanship’ is not a word many would use to describe Washington right now.”
Leatherwood added, “Still, even in an environment where little movement takes place, there’s an opportunity for our commission to continue speaking a convictional word from our churches to those in authority and ministering to all who work in the public square. That’s a vital service in this deeply polarized era of American political life.”
In contrast to the current Congress, Republican control of the House will make a considerable difference in at least which bills receive votes.
This new reality is likely to be especially true on the issue of abortion. The House has approved measures expanding abortion rights with Democrats in control the last two years – something a Republican majority is not expected to countenance. The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to forward those bills to President Joe Biden, though he supported them. The Senate rule requiring 60 votes to cut off debate for action on legislation to take place has been helpful to pro-life advocates.