Republicans will have a one-seat majority in the US Senate after a surprise win in Alabama -- here's what that means for 2018

Chip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesDonald Trump and Mitch McConnell.
  • The Democrat Doug Jones was declared the winner in the Alabama Senate election on Tuesday night; when he’s sworn in, the Republican Senate majority will shrink to just one seat.
  • The election upset could cause problems for President Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s legislative agenda in 2018.
  • Democrats are likely to capitalise on their electoral momentum to energize voters for the 2018 midterms.

Doug Jones’ surprise victory in the Alabama special election on Tuesday night will shrink the Republican Party’s US Senate majority to just one seat, shaking up the potential for 2018.

Jones, the first Democrat elected to the Senate in Alabama in more than two decades, could act as a roadblock to President Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s legislative agenda, which, nearly one year into Trump’s first term, has had precious little to celebrate aside from a tax bill that seems likely to pass after clearing the Senate earlier this month.

That bill is now being debated in the House, where Speaker Paul Ryan and other top party leaders are eager to reconcile the bill they passed with the Senate’s version to produce a final bill for Trump to sign.

But that tax bill, much like other key planks of Trump’s legislative agenda, is deeply unpopular, making the necessity of a congressional majority crystal clear for Trump. He has publicly acknowledged his need for GOP votes in his last-ditch efforts to stump for Roy Moore, the embattled Republican candidate who lost to Jones in Tuesday’s election.

Earlier this year, Republicans failed in dramatic fashion in multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act – despite persistent prodding from Trump. One of those moments came in July when Sen. John McCain of Arizona unexpectedly went against his party to cast the vote that killed a so-called skinny repeal.

Trump’s proposed wall along the US-Mexico border has also seen little progress aside from contracts being awarded for border-wall prototypes. The president has frequently needled lawmakers who have been hesitant to appropriate funds for the wall, and he has repeatedly urged them to push forward his aggressive immigration agenda.

With Republicans set to hold just a one-seat majority in the Senate when Jones is sworn in, most likely next month, and with GOP Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine, and Bob Corker of Tennessee having showed a willingness to break with their party, Trump’s legislative goals could face steeper challenges in 2018.

Tuesday’s result in Alabama also follows Democratic electoral victories last month in Virginia and New Jersey, perhaps setting the stage for a competitive midterm election next year.

But further Democratic momentum is not guaranteed. The party has 25 seats to defend in the Senate, compared with eight seats on the Republican side. In the House, where Republicans have held the majority since 2010, Democrats need to take back 24 seats to climb back over the top.

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