Six Weeks Out. When Congress meets after an election, but before the end of its term, it is known as a lame-duck session. In some instances, congressional leadership will push to pass legislation during a lame-duck session if it feels it cannot in the new Congress — often due to a change in who controls one or both chambers. With Republicans taking back the House in the midterm elections, Democrats are rushing to tackle several legislative priorities before the clock runs out — when the new Congress takes office on January 3, 2023. Over the next month and a half, Democratic leaders hope to have a productive lame-duck session, hitting topics like the federal budget, election laws, and social policies.
Recent Parallels. Following the “red wave” in 2010, when Republicans took over the House, Democrats passed several significant bills in the lame-duck session, including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” — a policy about LGBTQ soldiers in the military. After Democrats won back the House following the 2018 elections, Republicans similarly approved key legislation, passing the First Step Act and reauthorizing the farm bill. With the looming threat of a change in congressional power, these sessions are often the most productive meetings of Congress — over the past decade, more than a quarter of passed legislation has occurred during the lame-duck sessions.
Funding Bill. In September, President Biden signed a stopgap funding measure through December 16. With that deadline rapidly approaching, Congress must pass another bill to avert a government shutdown. Previously, lawmakers of both parties have used the looming threat of a shutdown to try to extract policy concessions from the opposition. After House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) suggested a Republican-controlled House would look upon funding for Ukraine with more scrutiny, Democrats may leverage the funding bill to attempt to secure more assistance in the lame-duck session. Lawmakers can either pass an omnibus spending agreement for the next fiscal year or another short-term measure — a continuing resolution — and revisit the issue later.
Debt Ceiling? Perhaps the most notable potential change regarding government spending is with the debt ceiling — a limit Congress sets on how much money the U.S. government can borrow to pay its financial obligations. While failing to fund the government results in a shutdown, failing to lift the debt ceiling would result in a default. Allowing the United States to default would be catastrophic, so lawmakers generally raise the debt limit without too much issue. However, some Democrats worry Republicans will try to leverage the cap to force spending cuts, and the move is not without precedent. So, concerned Democrats suggest Congress should preemptively lift the debt ceiling — or remove it altogether. However, such a move does not have a clear majority of support and is competing with other budget priorities that must pass, making it unknown if the leadership will call a vote on the measure.
Counting the Votes. Following presidential elections, Congress meets in January to certify the Electoral College vote count. After the 2020 elections, former President Donald Trump and some members of his team advanced a legal theory that suggested the Vice President — who presides over the joint session of Congress — could unilaterally reject electors from swing states, alleging widespread voter fraud. Many Republican lawmakers also objected to certain states’ certification, similarly trying to remove their votes from the count. Under these scenarios, where no presidential candidate would receive the required 270 electoral votes, the House of Representatives would decide the election — an outcome likely to favor the former President in the Republican-controlled chamber.
A Proposed Change. While Pence ultimately refused pressure to toss swing-state electors and several lawmakers’ objections failed, the incident sparked concerns among some about the obscure law governing the process — the Electoral Count Act. In response, some members of Congress have proposed reforms to the legislation, clarifying the vice president’s role in the process as purely ceremonial and raising the threshold for objections to the count. While the House passed a bill to that effect earlier this year, the Senate hopes to approve its bipartisan version — backed by both the Majority and Minority Leaders — during the lame-duck session.
Respect for Marriage Act. In the aftermath of the Dobbs decision, a concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas sparked concerns among Democrats that the Supreme Court may reconsider some of its prior rulings on same-sex or interracial marriage. Those fears spurred Democratic lawmakers to seek a bill enshrining protections for those unions in federal law. Dubbed the “Respect for Marriage Act,” a bipartisan group of lawmakers worked together to craft a bill which could pass. In July, the House approved it with a bipartisan 267-157 vote. However, in mid-September, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) delayed a vote on the bill until after the midterms when negotiators asked him for more time to secure support — due to the filibuster, the legislation needs at least 10 Republican senators to back it.
Last week, the bill overcame a procedural hurdle in the Senate with 62 votes — a sign the legislation might have the support it needs to avoid a filibuster. If the Act passes in the Senate, the amended version will go back to the House and, if approved, head to the President.
Others. While already adding up to an extensive laundry list, lawmakers are pushing for a host of other votes in the lame-duck session. Congress will likely take up the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act soon — an annual defense policy bill. While the measure will almost certainly receive bipartisan support, some members could try to add amendments to the legislation, such as provisions punishing OPEC for cuts in oil production. Some Democrats are also pushing for Congress to take up legislation regarding Dreamers — undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children — in the lame-duck session. Also, Senate Democrats are eager to continue the confirmation of Biden administration appointees and will likely approve several judges and agency heads in the next few weeks.
Still, with the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate, other key Democratic priorities — such as passing legislation codifying Roe v. Wade — have no real path forward in the lame-duck session. Regardless, the administration only has six weeks left of guaranteed Democratic control in Washington. What priorities Democrats choose to spend that limited time on ultimately remains to be seen.
Democratic lawmakers must urgently get to work on our to-do list for the next six weeks. Congress has many must-pass bills to deliver in a short timeframe. If we do not act before the GOP takes over the House in January, extremist Republicans could hold the U.S. economy hostage and block crucial electoral reforms and social policies. Democrats must approve bills funding the government, lifting the debt ceiling, preventing another January 6, and protecting marriage equality — among other measures.
Prior to the Democrats losing control of the House of Representatives, they are attempting to pass a series of radical reforms that otherwise would have failed during the regular session. Once Republicans assume control, they will focus on uncovering the corruption of the Biden administration — including investigations into the DOJ’s targeting of parents protesting school boards and Hunter Biden’s illicit dealings in Ukraine.
The Announcement. On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump announced his long-anticipated third presidential bid from his Florida home. Kickstarting his speech, Trump declared: “Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and my fellow citizens, America’s comeback starts right now.” The 76-year-old is the first Republican to announce a 2024 presidential campaign in a historically early debut. Only a handful of defeated presidents have launched bids to return to the White House, and only one — Grover Cleveland — has ever successfully done so.
Reactions from the Left. Democrats roundly panned the former President’s announcement. For those on the Left, Trump is the initiator of the movement they have fought so hard against. They cite his loss in the 2020 election as evidence that the American people reject him and vow to replicate those results should he win the nomination again. These critics also say the former President’s speech was laced with falsehoods, accusing him of purposefully misrepresenting his record.
Divide on the Right. Trump’s announcement comes one week after Republicans underperformed expectations in the midterm elections, something he has received some blame for on the Right. Reportedly, some Republicans had urged the former President to delay his campaign launch. Many critics on the Right believe a new candidate would fare better in the national debate, pointing to success in states like Florida. However, Trump’s allies maintain that he is the most popular figure in the GOP. They cite his endorsement rate as evidence of his continued strong influence in the Republican Party.
The move has also sparked debate among Republicans about its potential impact on the runoff for U.S. Senate in Georgia next month between incumbent Senator Raphael Walker (D) and his Trump-endorsed challenger, Herschel Walker (R). In the 2021 Georgia runoffs, some critics argued Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud depressed Republican turnout, leading Democrats to victory and the Senate majority. Many detractors suggest Trump’s announcement could discourage moderate Republicans from coming out for Walker and draw attention and funds away from the crucial race. Supporters claim Trump will motivate Republican voters and could help notch a notable win for the GOP.
Facts on the Ground. On Tuesday, Russia unleashed a barrage of missile attacks across Ukraine, plunging much of the nation into darkness as the strikes hit crucial energy infrastructure. Amid the blitz, Russian-made projectiles hit the Polish town of Przewodow, a village that sits on the border of Ukraine, killing two civilians. The incident could mark a pivotal moment in the war in Ukraine, threatening to plunge much of the world directly into the conflict.
Article 5. Poland is a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an international military alliance of 30 nations. The pact includes a clause known as Article 5 that says an attack against one member state is an attack against all member states. This provision says that NATO countries can use force against the aggressor in response to such an event. Under this collective defense agreement, if Russia intentionally launched the missiles on Polish soil, Poland could trigger Article 5 and bring the entire alliance into direct conflict with Russia. U.S. and European officials have stressed that investigations into the incident are ongoing. Since the organization formed in 1949, there has been only one instance of the Article’s use — following the attacks on September 11, 2001, the group invoked the clause, and NATO forces subsequently deployed to Afghanistan.
NATO Involvement. In the immediate aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many expressed concern about whether the conflict could devolve into an outright war between NATO and Russia. After all, the whole point of the collective security arrangement was to dissuade such an event from ever occurring. Ukraine has faced significant delays in its long-held ambition of joining the organization, with many international relations experts claiming member states believed allowing the nation to join could provoke Russian aggression. In response to its invasion, NATO activated its Response Force — thousands of multinational, high-readiness troops — for the first time. The bloc deployed forces to its eastern members, including those directly bordering Russia. Throughout this year, the alliance has even begun adding two new members — Sweden and Finland. These incidents have sparked questions about what it would look like if Russia triggered a full-fledged activation of the pact.
Battle for the Majority. Last Wednesday, in our breakdown of the midterm elections, we covered three key Senate races that could determine which party took the majority in the chamber — Georgia, Arizona, and Nevada. All three have Democratic incumbents, and either party needed to win at least two of the three to take control of the Senate. While Georgia headed to a runoff, the other two states seemed poised to give a split decision, with a Democrat leading in Arizona and a Republican leading in Nevada. Under that scenario, the Senate’s fate would rest once again in Georgia, undecided for weeks.
Southwest Shift. Since our initial coverage, observers have called both southwestern states for Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto, their respective incumbent Democratic Senators. These calls leave the Senate in Democratic hands, as they hold at least 50 seats in the chamber and have Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker. Should Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) beat his opponent Herschel Walker (R) in the runoff next month, Democrats will expand that majority.
A Few Races Left. Last week, we also highlighted the battle for control of the House of Representatives, saying that Republicans were likely to regain a narrow majority. While Republicans are still favored to retake control, Democrats have a small but possible path to holding onto the chamber. Just a week ago, the prospect seemed unthinkable, but Democrats have performed better than expected in several key races, leaving them in striking range.
The Path to a Majority. The Associated Press has currently called 212 seats for Republicans and 204 for Democrats. To reach the 218-seat target for the majority, the GOP only has to win seven of the 20 outstanding races, while Democrats need to take 14. Republicans are currently likely to win five seats and need to pick up only two of six neck-and-neck seats. Democrats’ most likely path under such a scenario requires them to seal the deal in the nine uncalled races where they currently hold a steady lead and clinch five of the battleground seats. Some of these contests’ margins may be so close that they trigger mandatory recounts, possibly leaving control of the House unclear for weeks.
Despite historic headwinds, Democrats have overcome the odds to retain — and potentially expand — their control of the Senate. In the face of a predicted “red wave,” Democrats could also still keep a majority in the House. This election was a referendum on Republican extremism, and the American people have resoundingly rejected them. From their dangerous abortion stances to election denialism, the voters sent a clear message — they do not trust Republicans to hold power. Until the GOP reverses course, the American people must entrust Democrats to continue leading us forward.
Explained. In the U.S., many states allow citizens to enact policies by approving ballot initiatives. The rules for these measures vary by state, but advocates often use the process to bypass the state legislature. While the procedure for getting an initiative on the ballot differs from state to state, it typically requires filing the proposal with a state official and obtaining a specified amount of signatures to show the measure has public support. These ballot initiatives usually come in the form of a question on the ballot. They appear alongside elected representatives and are more commonly used by towns, cities, and counties. As with the qualification rules, these measures must meet different thresholds for success depending on the state. While most initiatives only need a simple majority to pass, some states impose additional requirements, such as a certain percentage of the public voting on the measure or a larger majority backing the proposal.
Controversy. While ballot initiatives have seen notable successes, many states do not allow the practice, and others have sought to curtail their effectiveness. State lawmakers that oppose the practice generally argue that enacting policy changes is the legislature’s responsibility, not advocates. These opponents say initiative proponents often fail to understand the intricacies of existing laws or the potential impacts of their proposed policies. Such opposition comes from both sides of the aisle, typically in states where one party dominates the legislature — like New York and Texas. Some historians note that the party out of power often favors ballot measures, while the one in the majority regularly opposes them. Lobbying groups also tend to resist ballot initiatives, finding it much easier to influence individual legislators than the entire public. Others criticize the process as being susceptible to out-of-state interests that often spend significant sums to influence ballot measure campaigns.
2022 Midterms. In the latest midterm elections, voters across 37 states decided on 132 statewide ballot initiatives. They covered a broad range of topics, including abortion, marijuana, and forced prison labor. In some states, legislatures proposed measures to restrict the ballot initiative process. The 132 initiatives saw varying degrees of success, and many remain too close to call, but their broader use as a way for the public to affect policy change proved effective once again.
Abortion. While some states sought to ban elements of abortion, others codified abortion in their state constitutions. California passed a ballot initiative — Proposition 1 — to instate that one cannot “deny or interfere with an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions,” including decisions to have an abortion or to choose or refuse contraceptives. Likewise, Michigan’s Proposal 3 and Vermont’s Amendment enshrined a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom.”
Other the other end of the spectrum, Amendment 2 in Kentucky failed to add to the state constitution that there is no right to abortion or government funding for abortions. Perhaps most controversially, Montana’s LR-131 failed on a thin margin. The initiative would have “required medical care to be provided to infants born alive after an induced labor, cesarean section, attempted abortion, or another method.”
Marijuana. The legalization of marijuana has become a growing ballot initiative since Colorado popularized the move. During the 2022 midterm elections, five states voted on legalizing pot, with only two succeeding. Question 4 in Maryland and Amendment 3 in Missouri both legalized possession of marijuana for individuals over the age of 21 and with state sales taxes on the product. Measure 27 in South Dakota, Issue 4 in Arkansas, and Measure 2 in North Dakota, which would enact similar policies, failed.
Voting Changes. Voters also weighed ballot initiatives covering election policies. Across five states, ballot measures proposed changes to states’ voting procedures — some broadening access while others imposed more requirements. In Nebraska, voters approved a measure to require photo identification to vote. In Arizona, a measure that would increase the requirements to cast a ballot remains too close to call. In Ohio, voters backed an initiative that prevents localities from allowing noncitizens to vote. Meanwhile, results from a ballot measure in Nevada looking to drastically change the state’s primary system and introduce ranked-choice voting remain to be seen. Michigan and Connecticut also weighed several changes to how they conduct elections in their states.
Expectations. Going into the 2022 midterms, Republicans were favored to win — and win big. Midterm elections are often considered referendums on the performance of the party in power. With the Biden administration seeing historically low approval ratings for jobs, the economy, and other key swing issues, Republicans were set to take historic wins in the House and Senate. Up until election day, polls showed Republicans in striking distance for races like Maggie Hassan’s reliably blue New Hampshire, key congressional races like unseating Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, and even taking a shot at Hochul’s governor seat in the Democratic stronghold of New York.
Red Ripple. As election results started rolling in, the suspected “red tsunami” fizzled into a wave and, finally, a mere ripple. While outlets have been hesitant to call that the GOP has recaptured the majority in the House, most decision desks say they are poised to take control — albeit narrowly.
However, the fate of the Senate is more unclear, with several battleground seats still up for grabs. In Nevada, Adam Laxalt (R) leads incumbent Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D), while Senator Mark Kelly (D) is beating Blake Masters (R) in neighboring Arizona. Although these races remain uncalled, if these two races end as they currently stand, control of the Senate will hinge on a December 6 runoff in Georgia between Senator Raphael Warnock (D) and Herschel Walker (R).
Maricopa Madness. Many conservatives are angry after a glitch in voting machines in Maricopa County, Arizona. The highly populated county was the site of intense scrutiny following the 2020 elections, with former President Trump making allegations of widespread fraud there. The site is crucial to determining several high-profile races, such as the contests for Senate and governor. While the county has backup methods for voting if tabulators fail, many Republicans were suspicious of the errors and alleged it caused voters to leave the line and miss voting.
Who’s the Real Winner? DeSantis emerged as one of the victors of the night, as Trump-endorsed candidates failed to deliver and the candidates Trump attacked dominated. Democrats also looked good in the Senate and stopped the bleeding in the House races — even managing to flip seats. Republicans will still likely control the House of Representatives and will almost certainly end the January 6 committee — as well as launch investigations and play opposition to the Biden administration.
Tuesday’s election results are a rebuke of the extremism within the Republican Party. Democrats defied long-standing trends to overperform expectations. It is clear that Americans resoundingly oppose Trumpism in all its forms. The modern GOP is filled with Trump sycophants, election deniers, and insurrectionists. We must beat them.
The mainstream media is an acting arm of the Democratic Party. They have helped cover for Democrats, divide the American people, and hide the radical nature of Democratic politicians. Clearly, election laws also need to be changed. There is no reason we should still be waiting on races in California, New York, and Arizona. In addition, full-scale investigations must take place in Pennsylvania and Arizona over their election practices. Pennsylvania decided to alter voting laws the night of the election, and the same trickery of 2020 appeared in Maricopa County as voting machines mysteriously stopped working.
The Democrat’s strategy of helping weak Republicans in the primaries paid off. Democrats poured money into Republican elections, tainting the candidate pools. These weak candidates were further supported by former President Trump — who then took to the campaign trail to bash his own endorsement and ruin Republican chances up and down the ballots. The only solace from this election is the absolute victory of Florida and strong Republican leaders. DeSantis (FL), Abbott (TX), and Kemp (GA) — to name a few — have proven to be the future of the Republican party by blowing out their opponents and governing well.
Momentum Shift. For much of this campaign season, pundits have predicted Democrats would face stiff losses, dragged down by an unpopular President, voters’ concerns about the economy, and depressed Democratic enthusiasm. Adding to their troubles, the incumbent party typically loses seats in the midterm elections. However, over the summer, it looked like Democrats may buck those historical trends, as the overturning of Roe v. Wade reinvigorated their base, and a string of legislative achievements seemed to prompt an uptick in the President’s approval. Additionally, some analysts predicted that perceived poor candidate quality in high-profile races could cause the GOP to take some unnecessary losses. Yet, in the final weeks of the cycle, the tide appears to have turned back in the Republicans’ favor. Polls that once showed Democrats with comfortable leads in some of the most-watched races now show dead heats or Republican advantages, and the gap appears to be widening.
Closing Message. Here in the final days of the campaign, candidates are making their final pitch to the American people, hoping for a message that resonates. Republicans have sought to make the election a referendum on what they believe are failed Democratic policies under the Biden administration — chiefly on the economy, crime, and immigration. Democrats, meanwhile, have tried to cast the GOP as too extreme, particularly on abortion and welfare programs like Social Security and Medicare.
Results. Following the 2020 elections, some states took days to declare winners in the races. This year, we may face similar delays and might not know winners in some of the most-watched contests — such as Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania — on election night. Each state has different rules for when and how they count votes, leading to discrepancies between reporting times. Some states, like Florida and North Carolina, count mail ballots — which typically favor Democrats — before Election Day, and therefore initial results skew towards Democrats. Experts refer to this phenomenon as a “blue mirage.” Meanwhile, states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania count Election Day votes — which tend to lean Republican — first, creating a “red mirage.”
Tomorrow’s elections offer our nation a clear choice. If the American people entrust Democrats to continue leading our country, we will continue on our path of progress. Should they return Republicans to power, they will drag us backward. The American people are struggling, and Democrats are the only ones with the understanding and plan to address those issues. Democrats want to protect access to lifesaving reproductive healthcare, ensure every eligible American can vote, address the persistent threats of climate change and gun violence, and build an economy that uplifts working people. The voters should empower Democrats to deliver on this vision by electing them up and down the ballot.
The elections tomorrow are a definitive statement about the nation’s economy. While Democrats are focused on issues that do not impact Americans, Republicans will deliver on their promises to fix this nation’s economy, eliminate inappropriate material from schools, and solve rising crime — particularly at the Southern Border. It is time for Americans to reject the disastrous policies of the Biden administration and send a clear message that the Democrat Party fails to represent the people.