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  • AQA Component Government and politics of the USA: The executive branch of government: significance of which party controls Congress

  • Edexcel Component 3 (Government and Politics of the USA): 3.3.2: Limitations on presidential power: the election cycle and divided government

Background: what you need to know

The article reviews the results of the US midterm elections, held on 8 November. Not all the results are in at the time of writing, but the overall picture seems reasonably clear. The Democrats are expected to lose control of the House of Representatives, creating a ‘divided government’ scenario where it will be harder for President Biden to pass legislation. The article suggests some developments that may follow from this, reflecting the highly partisan nature of US politics, such as the possible shutting down of the Democrat-led investigation into the January 2021 Capitol riot.

The Democrats ultimately held the Senate. The much-predicted ‘red wave’ of support for the Republicans has proved to be less sweeping. A number of candidates identified with Donald Trump have not performed well, suggesting that his hold over the Republican Party may be open to challenge.

Click to read the article below and then answer the questions:

Midterms offer a glimmer of hope for US democracy

More comment on the midterm elections can be found here:

US midterms

Question in the style of AQA Politics Paper 2

  • Explain and analyse three factors that may influence the ability of the US President to pass a legislative programme. [9 marks]

Question in the style of Edexcel Politics Paper 3

  • Evaluate the view that control of Congress is the most important power available to the US President.

    You must consider this view and the alternative to this view in a balanced way. [30 marks]

     TIP: The midterm elections frequently limit the power of the US President by denying him control of one or both Houses of Congress. Look back at the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump for other examples.

Graham Goodlad, Portsmouth High School

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