This November, a Republican Congress was voted into office, picking up at least 8 seats in the Senate and twelve seats in the House. Meanwhile, voter turnout was lowest since World War II due to widespread disillusionment with the government. Most Americans believe that having a Republican Congress won’t make a difference and nothing will change—a reasonable assumption based upon the productivity of government in the past two years. However, there are some important consequences from this election which may be important over the next two years.
One of the biggest headlines from the Election of 2014 is that the Senate is now Republican. Most people believe that this will change nothing because the House was already Republican, the filibuster is still as effective as ever, and President Obama has veto power anyway. However, the flip-flopping of the Senate will have a large effect on one branch of the government: the judiciary. In November of 2013, the Senate changed its rules, invoking the so-called “nuclear option” to allow for a simple majority to approve of federal judicial appointments, excluding the Supreme Court. This meant that the large backlog of Obama appellate and district court nominees could be confirmed to the bench, tilting the ideological bent of courts across the country. An estimated one-third of the federal judiciary has been appointed by Obama, and a Democratic Congress would give him two more years to make his impact on the courts. Now, the nomination process is expected to slow to a crawl and more moderate judges will have to be appointed if they are to have any chance of making it to the bench.
There is hope that, now that Republicans control the legislative branch, there will be larger incentives for deal-making between Congressional Republican leaders and President Obama. Republicans will be looking to demonstrate that they can effectively govern, especially considering their obstructionist reputation, and Obama will be looking to cement his legacy. This may be a mere pipe dream, considering the partisan rancor which has swelled over the past 6 years. However, it seems that there will be no more government shutdowns or budget ceiling crises as GOP leaders look at ahead at the electorate for the 2016 election. A so-called “Grand bargain” budget deal or something of the sort that deals with the long-term solvency of the US’ finances looks unlikely, but possible, as both parties look to create a bipartisan image for a disillusioned electorate.
So now that this election is over, why did it matter? Federal judges as liberal as Obama would like will no longer be confirmed. They will either be more moderate or not even confirmed under a Republican Congress. You can look forward and hope (perhaps in vain) that leaders of both parties will regain their sanity and realize their common ground. Both parties need to look towards repairing their images in an epoch of negative campaigns, and the Presidential Election in 2016 already looms. I will be crossing my fingers for a compromise to help fix our nation’s finances.