U.S. Senate Majority Also in Play This Election Day

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All eyes may be on the presidential race, but the balance of power in the U.S. Senate is also in play this Election Day—which could help or hurt the next administration.

If the GOP retains control of the Senate, it would help Donald Trump, should he win the presidency, by making it easier to get legislation passed if his party continues to control both chambers of Congress. Much like the gridlock outgoing President Barack Obama faces in his last days in office, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton would find advancing her agenda difficult unless the Senate flips to her party’s control, although she is already expected to have to work across party lines since Republicans are likely to remain in the majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Thirty four of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are on ballots Tuesday, including 24 held by Republicans and the remaining 10 by Democrats. The majority of the nine races that experts consider to be the most competitive are all held by freshmen Tea Party Republicans facing their first re-election bids. Since the GOP currently has a 54-46 Senate majority, Democrats need to unseat four Republicans to regain control if Clinton wins and they need five if Trump wins, since the vice president acts as a tie-breaker in the chamber.

Which party controls the Senate speaks to one of the most hotly debated issues of the presidential campaign: Who should be appointed to replace the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died this year, leaving the high court deadlocked 4-4. Senate Republican leaders refused to hold confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia. But even if Clinton wins and Democrats regain Senate control, they would likely still fall short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a possible Republican filibuster to block a Supreme Court nomination.

Of course, regardless of who wins the presidency, even if Democrats win the Senate this year, experts say they could lose that theoretical majority in 2018, when they will be defending 24 of 33 seats that will be up for grabs in two years. Although it’s also possible that Democrats could regain control again in 2020 when Republicans are again at electoral disadvantage in the Senate, if projections hold true.

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