Every vote counts: Size of majority in Congress makes a difference

WASHINGTON D.C. — Lawmakers are back on Capitol Hill with the midterm election results fresh on their minds. Democrats have retained control in the Senate. Control of the House, though, still hangs in the balance.

How much of a majority the parties are able to get makes a big difference. The outstanding races will determine the balance of power in Congress — what gets done and what doesn’t.

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This matters to the citizens. How strong of a majority each party has determines how much compromise needs to happen when it comes to getting the parties’ agendas passed and ultimately, getting things done for the public.

“The real thing to do is just be patient, I think, at this point,” Georgetown associate professor Hans Noel, who studies American government, said.

Wins in Arizona and Nevada gave Democrats the majority in the Senate. The only outstanding race is in Georgia. That’s now in a runoff set for the first week of December.

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There is a big difference between a 50-seat majority and a 51-seat majority.

“Whenever the margin is really close, whenever the Senate is evenly divided, then every vote counts and there’s not a lot of wiggle room for somebody who has a reason to want to vote in the other direction,” Noel explained.

On the House side, there are still nearly 20 races that haven’t been called. Republicans need to pick up just a handful of seats to take the majority. Democrats would need more than a dozen.

“Typically, I think you can count on a handful of people in each party to be willing to go to the other party some of the time,” Noel added. “If the difference is two or three votes, then we’ll come to that quite often. If the difference is 10 or 20 or 30 votes, then it won’t matter as much.”

On Monday, lawmakers started a “lame duck” session. Still, there’s a lot on the agenda before the new Congress takes over in January.