Nearly everyone expects that Republicans will, if they win November’s midterm elections, use newfound majorities in the House and possibly the Senate for intense oversight of the Biden administration and to press Democrats on hot-button issues like critical race theory, gender identity and the Covid-19 response. But what else could they do?
While periods of divided government can yield gridlock, they also offer opportunities for progress. A party in control of the White House and Congress often finds itself at war with its own most uncompromising elements. By contrast, a party limited to power in one or both legislative chambers has an incentive to advance moderate ideas that force difficult choices on the other side of the aisle, and one holding only the presidency knows that compromise is its only path to governing.
In 1986, a 72-seat Democratic majority in the House of Representatives approved President Ronald Reagan’s tax reform, with 176 Democrats and 116 Republicans voting in favor. A decade later, half of House Democrats joined their colleagues in the Republican majority to pass welfare reform, which President Bill Clinton signed into law.
Our organization, American Compass, has been developing a conservative agenda that supplants blind faith in free markets with policies focused on workers and their families. That way of thinking is making inroads in the Republican Party, creating new avenues for legislative progress. Across three categories of policymaking, the party appears poised to make good use of any control it has in the next Congress.