Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate

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Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate
Democrats seem to have found a bright spot for their chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

It's Labor Day and we're just over two months out from the general election. But despite legislative wins over the summer, Democrats across the country are fighting for reelection in the shadow of President Joe Biden's low approval ratings. But they seem to have found a bright spot for democratic chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

Heidi Heitkamp served as a Democratic U.S. Senator in North Dakota. She was elected in 2012 but lost her seat in the 2018 midterms. 

"I think that there is a critical importance not to run away from the president," the One Country Project Founder said.

Heitkamp is no stranger to hyper-partisan politics where even the word "bipartisanship" might not sit well with swing state voters.

"Well, I think the first thing is, don't use the word "bipartisan," she said. "I think you say, 'Do you want to get stuff done?' ... Don't talk in generalities. Talk in specifics. What [does] this means to people's lives?"

But, if history is any indication, it might be nearly impossible for Democrats to hold on to the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

But in the Senate, the president's party remains on the offensive, hoping to expand their majority in 2022.

Ed Pagano served as President Barack Obama's liaison to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate from 2012 to 2014. He was charged with pushing the Obama administration's policies on Capitol Hill.  

"The control of the senate really is critical," the Akin Gump Partner said. "It determines what bills are on the floor, what nominations move forward? Who is the chairman or the chair of the committees of jurisdiction?"  

Pagano is no stranger to just how hard it can be to get Republicans on board with a Democratic president's agenda.

"Social issues? I don't see any agreement. And as for spending, very little," he continued.

Right now, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. It's a simple majority when Vice President Kamala Harris exercises her role as president of the Senate and casts the tie breaking vote for Democrats.

This year, Democrats are defending vulnerable Senators in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. But on the offensive they're looking to flip seats in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Three of those states are up for grabs, with incumbent Republicans not seeking re-election.

Despite the number of competitive races, recent polls show several Democratic candidates leading in key swing states.

"I think we've nominated some great candidates to deliver that message in the middle of the country. And then they've nominated just outrageously extreme candidates," Heitkamp said.

But if Democrats lose just one seat in the Senate, they could end up in the same situation as President Obama's final two years in office after he lost the Senate and the House with little Democrats to do other than hope for executive action — but leaving them virtually powerless to push through the president's nominees. 

"Losing the Senate can actually be more detrimental because you lose the nominations/ You lose the ability to put in lifetime appointments on the judiciary," Prime Policy Group Senior Adviser Marty Paone said. "I mean, you just look at the Merrick Garland failure for one." 

And if Democrats do lose the Senate, it could mean a major roadblock to Biden's agenda — something Republican Senate candidates are campaigning on, making the race all about President Biden in many of the 34 states with Senators up for re-election.