Let me start with the last question first because it's less speculative. It's possible for Republicans to pick up seats in the Senate race but lose the House (perhaps by a lot) because of the nature of how elections are scheduled. Every even numbered year all of the House of Representative seats are up for election. This usually makes the House more responsive to the overall mood of the country. This year, Democrats are incredibly energized, with IIRC 75% of them very eager to vote. Combined with a double digit gap in support among white women and this looks like a bad year for Republicans in the House, perhaps a very bad year. The Senate is different. They're supposed to be less susceptible to the whims of the people. That's why they serve six year terms. The Senate also has it's elections staggered so that about a third of the Senate is up for election in any given year. This year, Democrats have 24 seats up for election (as well as two independents who are allied with the Democrats). Republicans only have nine seats up for election (these numbers include two special elections, a Republican held seat in Mississippi and a Democratic held seat in Minnesota). So while the overall national mood may favor Democrats, there just aren't a lot of Republican seats up for election which they could win. Also, many of the Republican held Senate seats this year are in states like Mississippi, Wyoming, Nebraska and Texas where Democrats chances of winning are slim to none. There's only one Republican up for election in a state which Hillary Clinton won, Nevada's Dean Heller. In addition, Arizona and Tennessee also seem competitive for Democrats. That might seem good since Democrats only need two seats to take control of the Senate, but the other side of the map also looks bad for the Democrats. Now, most of the Democrats up for election are in blue states where they should easily win. But ten Democratic Senators are running in states that Trump won. Now, about half of those are running in states like Florida, where Trump barely won, and some of the others, like Sherrod Brown in Ohio, seem to be comfortably ahead. But there are a couple of Democratic Senators running in states which Trump won by large margins, including Joe Manchin in West Virginia, which voted for Trump by about 40 points, and Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota who won her last election by just 3000 votes. So if Republicans can knock off a couple of these guys they could actually gain seats in the Senate even if they lose some races elsewhere.
Now, on to what will happen if Democrats win the House and Republicans retake the Senate. The first thing is probably not a lot of legislation. We had split government from 2011-2015 (when Republicans controlled the House and Democrats the Senate and White House). That wasn't a productive time legislatively. The Senate actually passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill that would have been a major piece of legislation, but the House refused to even vote on it. We would presumably see a similar gridlock from 2019-2021 (or whenever control changed again). Some people have suggested that there might be some more room to manuever, however. Trump is, in some ways, not an orthodox Republican, particularly when it comes to economic issues. There might be some more ground for Democrats to work with him on some issues and actually get things done. But I wouldn't count on it much.
If Democrats do retake the House then the biggest change will be oversight of Trump. Currently the Republican lead Congress has completely abandoned its role as an independent and coequal branch of government. They're conducting absolutely no oversight of the Trump administration. In fact, the head of the main watchdog committee in the House is actively running interference for Trump, sometimes in ways which skirt the boundaries of ethics. What has resulted from this is one of the most corrupt administrations in living memory, with tons of high level Trump officials, including Trump himself, caught up in ethics scandals. If Democrats retake at least one house of Congress then they will restore the independent oversight function of the legislature and investigate lots of different aspects of Trump's administration. This would include things like his business ties, including potential corruption issues, misspending of government resources by cabinet members, allegations of improper procedures with implementing some of his policies, national security violations, and other things. If you're worried at all about Trump's behavior being legal or ethical then Democrats in power would do something to at least investigate that.
· 10 months ago