In elections that featured unusually large turnouts for a midterm, Democrats captured the U.S. House of Representatives, a result that makes it likely that Medicare and Social Security will be protected against budget cuts. At the same time, Republicans solidified their control of the U.S. Senate, delivering a split decision in this hotly contested political year.
When the 116th Congress convenes in January, there will be at least 220 Democrats and 196 Republicans in the House. As of Wednesday afternoon, 19 House seats remained too close to call. In the Senate, the GOP will have at least 51 seats and the Democrats 46. Florida and Arizona were still too close to call on the day after the election and voters in Mississippi will decide their new senator in a runoff election on Nov. 27.
In poll after poll before the election, health care was a top concern of the electorate. Likely voters especially expressed concerns about protecting the ability of people with preexisting conditions to get health care, worries that older people would be subject to higher health premiums because of their age and that prescription drug prices would continue to skyrocket unchecked. And in a number of battleground state and individual House election surveys, older voters clearly expressed their support for other issues that AARP fights for every day, including preserving Social Security.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is poised to become Speaker of the House for the second time, pledged in her victory remarks early Wednesday morning to protect any assault on Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. She also promised that the new House would work to “lower the cost of health care by lowering the cost of prescription drugs,” by passing legislation to “negotiate down the price control cost of prescription drugs that is burdening seniors and families across America.”
John Hishta, AARP senior vice president for campaigns, says he hopes leaders on both sides of the aisle will follow Pelosi’s lead on this issue. “Everybody has been talking about lowering the costs of prescription drugs,” Hishta says. “Maybe now we’ll actually do it.”