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(Bill Clark/CQ Roll contact via Getty Images)

Election job is in the rearview mirror, however it’s still no clear whether Republicans or democrats will have the bulk in the U.S. Senate following year. That won’t be determined until at an early stage January, when voters in Georgia fill 2 seats in runoff elections. Leading up to the runoffs, Republicans have actually secured 50 Senate seats and Democrats have 48 (this consists of the 2 independent senators who caucus with the Democrats).

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Regardless of just how the vote in Georgia rotate out, the Senate will be closely divided next year. And also that is part of a long-running trend: small partisan divides in the Senate and also the house of Representatives have actually become much more common in recent decades, follow to a Pew research study Center analysis of historical data going back to the 88th conference (1963-1965), the an initial Congress v 100 senators and 435 representatives.


We carried out this analysis to know whether and also how the dimension of congressional majorities has adjusted over time.

The analysis uses archival documents from the historic offices the the U.S. Home of Representatives and also U.S. Senate. Information around the upcoming runoff vote in Georgia comes from news reports.

For compare purposes, we started our evaluation in the 88th congress (1963-1965), the an initial Congress with 100 senators and 435 representatives. The data for which party organized a majority in a conference is indigenous the beginning of each session – the does no take right into account any shifts during that session.


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The biggest majorities in the Senate and House during this stretch emerged in the 1960s – and also both were autonomous majorities. Democrats hosted 66% of Senate seat in the 88th congress and almost seven-in-ten residence seats (68%) in the 89th congress of 1965-1967. Due to the fact that then, the dimension of the majorities in both chambers has normally trended downward. By the so late 1990s and also early 2000s, the partisan break-up in both chambers hovered roughly 50-50.

Next year 117th Congress has actually the potential come be among only two in the last six years in i m sorry Democrats and Republicans have actually the same number of Senate seats at the beginning of the term. The critical time it taken place was the 107th conference (2001-2003), once each party held 50 seats.

In the House, Democrats are expected to have actually a slim bulk next year. The narrowest residence majorities in the six years we examined occurred in the 106th and also 107th Congresses, as soon as Republicans comprised just over fifty percent (51%) that the chamber, stop 223 and 220 seats, respectively. (A party usually demands at the very least 218 seats because that a majority in the House, but, as result of vacancies, the number deserve to be lower.)

Breaking Senate ties

If Democrats victory both runoff poll in Georgia in January, they would certainly gain control of the Senate due to the possibly tiebreaking poll of democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

Harris would certainly follow a angry president who made document use the his capacity to rest ties in the Senate: current Vice president Mike Pence has actors 13 tiebreaking votes, more than any type of vice president in the contemporary era that the chamber.


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Pence cast all 13 that his tiebreaking votes throughout the 115th congress (2017-2019), blowing past the previous high because that ties damaged in a single congressional session: three, by previous vice presidents penis Cheney (107th congress in 2001-2003, 108th conference in 2003-2005), Al Gore (103rd congress in 1993-1995) and also George H.W. Bush (98th conference in 1983-1985, 99th conference in 1985-1987).

Cheney previously hosted the modern record for full ties damaged during a angry presidency. Every told, Cheney cast eight tiebreaking votes during the eight year of the George W. Bush administration.

Cheney and also Pence offered as vice president throughout periods through razor-thin Senate majorities. During three the the 4 Senate sessions Cheney presided over, the majority party hosted 51% of seat or fewer. And also when Pence cast his record-breaking number of tiebreaking votes, the bulk party (Republicans) likewise held 51 Senate seats.

President-elect Joe Biden, who served for eight years as Barack Obama’s deputy, did not cast any type of tiebreaking votes when he to be vice president.

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The irreversible narrowing of congressional majorities has come amid growing partisan polarization in the unified States. The has also created an ext opportunities because that partisan manage to flip. For example, Democrats organized the house from the 1960s till 1994, as soon as Republicans secured the majority. In just the critical 14 years, by comparison, control of the home has adjusted hands 3 times.