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Control of Congress still undecided after elections

U.S. Capitol (BP file photo)

WASHINGTON (BP) – Control of the next Congress remained uncertain by early afternoon Wednesday (Nov. 9), a day after the 2022 mid-term elections.

Republicans seemed near to gaining the majority in the House of Representatives, while it appeared a December runoff might be required to determine which party controls the Senate.

In the House, the GOP led the Democrats 204-176 in seats won as of 1:45 p.m. CST Wednesday, according to reporting by The New York Times based on results from The Associated Press. The Senate was deadlocked at 48 seats each, with winners yet to be declared in four races, according to the report.

Race calls in the House leave Republicans 14 short of the 218 seats needed to take the majority from the Democrats. In the Senate, the GOP needs to win three of the races for a majority. Democrats require only two victories to maintain a majority by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote as president of the Senate.

The narrow margins from the congressional voting Tuesday (Nov. 8) proved unexpected following predictions of a strong Republican showing.

Brent Leatherwood, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told Baptist Press, “While there are still a number of races with outstanding ballots to be counted, this election was far different than what the vast majority of analysts and pundits expected.

“Historically, in mid-term elections taking place in a president’s first four years, the opposition party typically wins almost 30 seats in the U.S. House,” he said. “That is not what materialized here. While it appears there may be a small Republican majority in the House, the Senate majority may not be decided for another month.”

Leatherwood added in written comments, “So as we wait for this to be sorted out, our team continues preparing for the end of this Congress – and what may come with the lame duck session [before the next session] – and readying for the next Congress. Because even with new faces and potentially new congressional leadership, there remain pressing matters important to our Baptist family that will be considered in our nation’s capital.”

Which party controls the Senate and/or House will make a considerable difference in which bills receive votes and/or gain passage.

For instance, the House has approved measures expanding abortion rights with Democrats in control the last two years – something highly unlikely to occur with Republicans in the majority. The Democratic-controlled Senate has failed to forward those bills to President Biden, though he supported them. The Senate rule requiring 60 votes to cut off debate for action on legislation to take place has worked to the advantage of pro-life advocates.

Democrats have been unable to gain commitments from two of their members, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, to change the rule to eliminate the 60-vote requirement to cut off debate. If they are able to reach 52 members, Democrats may be able to change that rule and pass measures with only a majority, although a GOP-controlled House could stand athwart efforts to enact bills it opposed.

The four Senate races yet to be decided are in Alaska, Arizona, Georgia and Nevada.

A Republican will win in Alaska, because the two leading candidates in a close race are both GOP members.

In Arizona, incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly leads Republican challenger Blake Masters by 51-46 percent with 68 percent of votes reported as of 1:45 p.m. CST Wednesday.

Republican Adam Laxalt is ahead of Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto by 50-47 percent with 75 percent of votes counted in Nevada.

In Georgia, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock leads Republican Herschel Walker by 49.4-48.5 percent with 95 percent of votes reported. The failure of either candidate to reach 50 percent will result in a runoff scheduled for Dec. 6.