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Split Decision

Republicans Expand Hold on Senate,Democrats Win the House

How Will a Divided Congress Affect the Housing Agenda?

As the smoke settles on Election Day, party intensity, electoral history and the map combined to deliver majority control of the House of Representatives to the Democrats for the first time since 2010, while expanding the Republican Senate majority.

On the morning after the 2018 election, two seats in the Senate and a number of seats in the House remained too close to call.

The storyline for the 2018 midterm elections started the day after Donald Trump’s general election victory in 2016. Democrats awoke to the realization that the polls showing a Hillary Clinton victory were very wrong and that an election victory they took largely for granted had vanished. Their disappointment on election night 2016, alleged meddling by Russia, and President Trump’s brash, take-no-prisoners style fueled a steep rise in energy in the Democratic base.

Electoral history was on the side of the Democrats in 2018. In all but two midterm elections since World War II, the party in the White House has lost congressional seats. A large number of retiring GOP incumbents, many in swing districts and in heavily Democratic states, forced House Republicans to defend close to 100 seats against a building Democratic wave. House Democrats had only 13 “toss-up” seats to defend.

However, the news wasn’t all bad for the GOP. Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings in September rallied the GOP base and provided energy in advance of the elections. And the pre-election map in the Senate favored Republicans, who were able to play offense.

Senate Democrats had to defend 26 seats in the 2018 cycle, including 10 held by incumbents trying to win in states that President Trump carried in 2016. The Senate GOP had to defend only nine seats to maintain its 51-49 seat majority. Senate Republicans expanded their majority by picking up seats in North Dakota, Florida, Indiana and Missouri and losing only one seat, Sen. Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada. Races in Arizona and Montana remained too close to call. The GOP will control at least 53 seats when the 116th Congress convenes in 2019.

Going forward, NAHB looks to find common ground with the new Congress. Many of the members-elect and returning members who will take office in January as part of the new Democratic House majority come from swing districts or have supported NAHB in the past. The large membership of the pro-business New Democrat Coalition will be an important bloc for NAHB to engage with on policy issues.

When the 116th Congress is seated in January, we expect the new House majority to exercise its oversight authority to police the administration. Regardless, NAHB will continue its focus on workforce development, lowering the cost of regulation, investing in infrastructure, and refining tax policy and enhancing the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

The next two years give NAHB an opportunity to forge a new bipartisan coalition among housing advocates in the House and Senate to drive housing affordability, both ownership and rental, to the top of the national agenda.

Jim Tobin

Executive Vice President

Government Affairs and Communications

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