WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Politicians and pollsters predict a big Republican win on November 2 when voters elect all 435 members of the House of Representatives and 37 of the 100 senators.
But sometimes elections do not turn out quite the way the experts predict.
Here are some possible scenarios in the unlikely event that the Democrats were to defy the odds and keep hold of the House and Senate.
Even if Democrats manage to hold onto their majority in the Senate, their 59 seats could dwindle to the low 50s. That would make it harder for them to rustle up the 60 votes they need to short-circuit Republicans’ procedural roadblocks, known as filibuster. The result could be that even with Democrats controlling the White House and Congress, not much gets done unless they work closely with Republicans.
A presidential commission looking at reducing the $1.29 trillion U.S. budget deficit is expected to unveil a report in December. A Democratic-controlled Congress would make it harder for Republicans to push for privatizing the Social Security retirement system as a way of saving money. Many Democrats are also more likely to resist raising the retirement age.
Democrats would push to have increasing tax revenues on the table in any discussion of ways to reduce deficits. If Congress fails this year to decide the fate of Bush-era tax cuts due to expire on December 31, Democrats next year likely would push to end those breaks for the wealthiest.
Republican attempts to dismantle President Barack Obama’s landmark healthcare reform and banking reform laws would be all but dead in Congress. But legal challenges to the healthcare industry overhaul would continue like one by the state of Virginia.
If the current Congress does not finish legislation slapping new U.S. import duties on China and other countries with fundamentally undervalued currencies, the new Democratic Congress is more likely than a Republican one to follow up. That’s especially the case if there was additional evidence Beijing wasn’t moving rapidly enough to let its currency rise.
And if Obama pushes free-trade agreements with South Korea and other countries, Democrats might be further pressured to move against China as an incentive for building party support for the trade deals.
Obama says he wants to complete a free trade pact with South Korea and will likely push for congressional approval no matter which party is in control. Free trade agreements with other countries, such as Colombia and Panama, could face tougher odds with Democrats in power as one of their main constituencies — organized labor — do not like the deals.
A Democratic-controlled Congress would be more inclined than a Republican-dominated one to approve bills aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming. A series of small-step bills would be likely.
A Democratic majority might help Obama stop efforts to temporarily ban the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases.
If they continue to set the legislative agenda and chair committees that write legislation, Democrats no doubt would seek to reform immigration laws by including a path to citizenship for the approximately 12 million people currently living in the United States illegally. Immigration reform and further strengthening border security might help Obama’s re-election in 2012.
The renewal of a major, multi-year highway and mass transit funding bill will be a high priority next year no matter which party holds Congress. But it’ll be a tough debate amid voter anxiety over large federal budget deficits and conservatives’ call for smaller government.
Democrats are seeking around $500 million — a higher price tag than a Republican-run Congress would want.
Nancy Pelosi likely would be re-elected to a third term as Speaker of the House. Some moderate Democrats have said they would not vote for her again, but their tune could change if Democrats do take the House.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, more politically moderate than Pelosi, is not expected to challenge her, according to senior Democratic aides.
The result: the House would again be led by a strong backer of economic stimulus legislation, comprehensive climate control steps and investment in infrastructure.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in a very tough re-election fight. If he loses and Democrats hold the Senate, the somewhat more liberal Senator Richard Durbin from Illinois could take his place. Durbin has strong relations with Obama.
If Reid does not win re-election in Nevada, Durbin could vie for the leadership job with the more moderate Charles Schumer, the New York senator with close ties to Wall Street.
Editing by Jackie Frank