What's the worst that could happen in the midterms? For both sides, a lot.

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at Houston Toyota Center, Monday, Oct. 22, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

As he travels the country holding rallies for vulnerable Republicans ahead of the midterm elections, President Donald Trump has offered an increasingly dystopian vision of what Democratic majorities in Congress could mean for his ardent supporters.

“At stake in this election is whether we continue the extraordinary prosperity that we've all achieved, or whether we let the radical Democrat mob, take a giant wrecking ball and destroy our country and our economy,” Trump said at a rally in Texas Monday.

Democrats have also attempted to underscore what progressive voters stand to lose if Republicans remain in control on Capitol Hill after Nov. 6.

“GOP leadership just confirmed what we've been saying all along—if they do well in the midterms they will try repealing health care again, kicking millions of Americans off health insurance, ending protections for pre-existing conditions & raising premiums,” said Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., on Twitter Saturday.

So, two weeks from Election Day, what does the worst-case scenario look like for both parties?

The Blue Wave

First, some things that will not happen in a Democratic Congress, at least in the short term: nobody is going to remove President Trump or Justice Brett Kavanaugh from office, the U.S. will not transform into a socialist wonderland, and the Second Amendment is not going anywhere.

More likely would be legislative gridlock on major issues as Democrats try to deny Trump any victories to tout at his re-election campaign rallies and advance progressive legislation he would never sign to score points with their own base.

“Democrats will put all their eggs in a 2020 strategy,” said Democratic strategist Scott Ferson.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi—still the most likely Democrat to be named speaker if they win the House—has already laid out some objectives: campaign finance reform, gun control, immigration reform, and shoring up the integrity of the voting system. Trump has a darker interpretation of the progressive agenda.

“Fake News Democrats want to replace freedom with socialism. They want to replace taxes with Nancy Pelosi. They want to replace the rule of law with the rule of the mob. That's what's happening. The Democrats would rather destroy American communities, than defend America's border,” he said Monday.

The White House sought to emphasize the stakes of turning over power to the Democrats Tuesday with an extensive report detailing the “opportunity costs” of socialist policies, including free college tuition and Medicare-for-all.

“A great deal of evidence shows that socialism robs workers and businesses of incentives to work, earn, and innovate by outlawing private business and important sectors, levying high tax rates, and centrally controlling economic activity,” Kevin Hassett, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told reporters on a conference call.

Some Democrats have spoken of reversing the 2017 tax cuts or creating a Medicare-like national health care system, but any realistic projection where they seize control of the Senate would leave them with a very slim majority. No matter what they pass in the House, they will not have anywhere near enough votes to impeach anyone or override a Trump veto.

“Most of the stuff, if any of it, wouldn’t go anywhere, even in a narrowly-controlled Democratic Senate but if the Senate were controlled by the Democrats, what the House does wouldn’t look as much like a political stunt,” said Bob Mann, a former Senate press secretary and a professor of political science at Louisiana State University.

Democratic control of the Senate could still have drastic consequences for President Trump. Due to changes they made last time they had a majority, Democrats have been unable to filibuster any of Trump’s political appointees, Cabinet members, or judicial nominees. Last year, Republicans eliminated the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations.

A Democratic Senate would likely exercise its advise-and-consent role by aggressively challenging some of the president’s nominees. Trump’s stacking of the federal bench with young conservative judges would hit a roadblock, and any potential Supreme Court nominees could become victims of the seething Democratic anger over the 2016 Republican blockade of Merrick Garland.

“One of the most important outcomes of Democratic control of the Senate would be that they would be in a position to demand consultation on judicial nominations and be able to block those which they believe are out of the mainstream,” said Richard Arenberg, a former Capitol Hill staffer and author of “Congressional Procedure: A Practical Guide to the Legislative Process in the U.S. Congress.”

There may be an opportunity for immigration reform under Democratic control, but it would likely not include the changes to legal immigration programs President Trump has demanded. Getting money for Trump’s border wall would be complicated, but Democrats have previously offered to trade that for legal status for those who were covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, so it is not entirely off the table.

Even if they only take the House, Democrats will have many new tools at their disposal. They will not be able to physically remove Trump from the Oval Office, but they will be able to entangle his administration in congressional investigations and legislative red tape.

“Number one is going to be oversight,” Mann said. “That’s the thing that there’s so much pent up demand for. Oversight in dozens of areas, it could end up being like a traffic jam.”

Democrats have already laid out some areas ripe for inquiries, including the pursuit of the president’s fabled tax returns.

“The Republican Congress has not only failed to assert itself and review or investigate the conduct of the executive; worse, it has also been complicit in some of the president’s most egregious attacks on our democratic institutions,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the likely chair of the House Intelligence Committee in a Democratic majority, said in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post.

According to Schiff, Democrats aim to “ruthlessly prioritize” investigations of President Trump’s ties to Russia, corruption in the Trump administration, and abuses of power, as well as delving into issues like prescription drug pricing and treatment of veterans.

“Clearly there’s going to be Watergate-like judiciary hearings,” Ferson said.

Republicans worry the renewed focus on scrutinizing Trump would come at the expense of investigations of alleged FBI bias and misconduct they have been conducting. Democrats may also act to protect special counsel Robert Mueller from any attempt to fire him before his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election is complete.

“The era of Trump acting with impunity because of nearly unfailing support from Republicans on Capitol Hill would be over,” Arenberg said. “Even some Republicans may no longer continue to support his most objectionable actions.”

The outcome of Mueller’s investigation could have a significant impact on a Democratic Congress. If he reveals serious wrongdoing by the president, it may open the door to serious impeachment proceedings.

“A very strong case, particularly if it includes financial corruption, could potentially shake lose Republican votes,” Arenberg said.

The Trump Train

Republicans face fewer constraints right now, and they would have hardly any if they successfully fend off a blue wave in November. They have made no secret of their intent to continue doing what they have been since Trump took office: confirming judges, cutting taxes and regulations, and pursuing a conservative social agenda.

If Republicans hold the majority in both chambers and expand their advantage in the Senate, there is little Democrats can do to stop them. Moderate senators who serve as key GOP votes now could also be marginalized by more conservative newcomers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already announced plans to attempt another repeal of the Affordable Care Act and target entitlement programs if the GOP retains the Senate majority.

“They’ll make another run at health care,” Mann said. “If they retain a majority in both houses, they sure are sending some pretty strong signals about cutting or reforming Medicare and Social Security.”

Democrats have picked up on those signals and portrayed them as an attempt to snatch health care and benefits away from those in need.

“Listen. If Mitch Mconnell [sic] says they are going to come after your health care if they win more seats then that’s exactly what they are going to do,” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, last week.

Rolling back the ACA would allow more patients to seek less expensive, less robust insurance plans, but those currently obtaining affordable insurance could face higher prices and popular provisions like protection for people with pre-existing conditions would be put at risk. Republicans maintain their efforts to reform Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security are necessary measures to preserve the programs, but Democrats argue they would weaken them and leave fewer Americans protected.

As weak as the Democrats’ position is now, it could get worse. The only thing keeping the Senate from devolving into strict majority rule is McConnell’s reluctance to eliminate the legislative filibuster, as President Trump has publicly urged him to do many, many times. However, the GOP’s protracted internal struggles over health care and tax reform last year suggest it could still be difficult to secure a simple majority for some policies.

“Trump’s got both houses right now and look how little he’s been able to do legislatively,” Mann said.

The House could take a hard turn to the right, depending on who succeeds Paul Ryan as speaker. Current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, have indicated they intend to seek the position. In a letter to colleagues in July, Jordan detailed an aggressive agenda including the full repeal of the ACA, building the border wall, and cutting federal spending.

“President Trump has taken bold action on behalf of the American people,” he wrote. “Congress has not held up its end of the deal, but we can change that. It’s time to do what we said.”

Although President Trump has promised a new middle-class tax cut in the coming weeks, it is unlikely any such proposal would be voted on by the current Congress before the end of the year. A new Republican Congress could help Trump slash rates further, a move that Democrats say would result in lower tax revenues and new pressure to cut funding for social welfare programs.

The conservative makeover of the federal courts prized by McConnell would continue, with the president’s nominee’s rarely facing any pushback from Senate Republicans. Given the age of some of the Supreme Court’s liberal justices, it is not unlikely he would have an opportunity to fill another seat.

“They will continue to stock the all-important Circuit Courts with very conservative, very young, mostly male and white judges. This may or may not include another Supreme Court vacancy or two,” Arenberg said.

Without Democratic interference, Trump would have relatively free rein to transform the Justice Department. Top Republicans have already indicated acceptance of the firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and anyone Trump appoints to replace him might accede to his frequent calls to investigate his political enemies.

Jordan and others in the GOP have demanded a special counsel be appointed to look at the FBI’s actions or Hillary Clinton’s emails, and a new attorney general could prove more receptive to those requests than Sessions. Trump might also take the advice of his congressional allies and order that Mueller be fired or his probe be shut down.

“What we may have in the end is a dramatically weakened Mueller investigation,” Mann said.

Groups that already feel ostracized in Donald Trump’s America fear they will be cast further to the fringes under Republican policies and conservative judges. A New York Times report this week that the Trump administration is considering limiting the legal definition of “transgender” has further fueled those concerns.

“The Trump administration continues to attack protections for transgender Americans,” tweeted Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in response to the report. “We will not stand for this discrimination. Because transgender rights are human rights. And, they #WontBeErased.”

Even if a Republican Congress stalls out, a postelection Trump emboldened by victory could launch more aggressive executive actions on immigration, health care, and other issues, and there would be fewer voices left in Washington to oppose him.

“If he holds onto the House, it’ll be, in Trump’s mind, a landslide of historic proportions for the Republicans He’ll see this as a resounding endorsement of his policies, and he won’t be entirely wrong in saying that,” Mann said.

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