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Midterms Decided, Yielding Divided Congress

Republicans capture control of the House while Democrats retain the Senate

An election official carries a batch of ballots ready for tabulation at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) in Phoenix, Arizona, US, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022. After months of talk about reproductive rights, threats to democracy, climate change, immigration and crime, the US midterm elections are coming down to the way Americans feel about the overall state of the economy and, in particular, inflation. Photographer:  Jon Cherry/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An election official carries a batch of ballots ready for tabulation at the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) in Phoenix, Arizona.
Jon Cherry/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Eight days after Election Day, control of the 117th Congress was decided with Republicans gaining enough seats to wrest control of the U.S. House of Representatives from the Democrats, who will maintain control of the U.S. Senate.

As of Nov. 16, the GOP will hold at least 218 seats in the House, exactly the number needed to be in the majority. So far Democrats will control 210 seats. The elections in seven House districts remained undecided.

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In the Senate, Democrats will control at least 50 seats in January and Republicans 49. But the final makeup of the upper chamber will not be known until after a Senate seat in Georgia is decided in a Dec. 6 runoff election.

Currently, the Senate is 50-50 but in Democratic hands because Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris can cast any tie-breaking vote. 

In Georgia, incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock led GOP challenger Hershel Walker 49.4 percent to 48.5 after the votes were counted, but under Georgia law a candidate must get 50 percent plus one to be elected. So the two will face off again at the runoff. If Warnock wins, the Democrats will control 51 seats and the GOP 49 for the next two years. If Walker wins, the Senate will still be 50-50, with Democrats in control because Harris will still be able to break any tie.

Economy was top of mind for many voters

Inflation was far and away top of mind for 2022 voters. About half said inflation was key in their decision-making, and the economy overall was an overarching concern with about 8 of 10 voters saying it was in bad shape, according to polling by AP VoteCast. The concern over inflation had been evident in national surveys throughout the election season, including AARP polls of 50-plus voters. Those surveys also showed that protecting Social Security and Medicare, as well as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, continue to be very important to America’s older electorate.

The Nov. 8 turnout estimates show that older voters continue to lead all other age groups in voting. Ballots cast by voters 50-plus represented 59 percent of all votes, followed by 31 percent from voters ages 50-64 and 28 percent from voters age 65 and older. Preliminary turnout data shows that the high turnout that has been evident in the past few elections is continuing. According to the U.S. Elections Project, as of Nov. 8, 116 million Americans had voted in this year’s midterms compared with 114 million who voted in the last midterm election in 2018. Echelon Insights predicts that when all tallies are completed, more than 125 million Americans will have cast their ballots this year, a record-breaking turnout for a midterm.

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What the new shape of the national government will mean for issues vital to the 50-plus population is not clear.

“On the federal level, it’s likely going to be divided government one way or the other,” says John Hishta, AARP senior vice president for campaigns. “It seems that there were a lot of conflicted voters out there who in their minds had difficult choices to make.”

Hishta said that regardless of who controls the chambers of Congress, AARP will continue to fight for the issues most important to the 50-plus population: “At the end of the day, older voters expect that programs like Social Security and Medicare are going to be protected and saved for the future.”

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