US Midterms 2022: what is the difference between House of Representatives and Senate - how do midterms work?

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People across the US will be going to the polls to vote at the midpoint of Joe Biden’s presidential term - here’s how the US system differs from the UK

Attention turns once again to US politics as American voters head to the polls in the 2022 midterm elections. The US political system allows the public to have their say on the political makeup of their country midway through the presidential term.

This may seem a million miles away from the UK system, in which the public is - normally - given a simple first-past-the-post parliamentary election every five years.

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Americans will be given the opportunity to vote on new representatives in the House of Representatives. Some states will also be able to vote for new senators, with 34 or 100 seats up for grabs.

The results could have an impact on President Biden’s power for the remainder of his term. But what is the difference between the House of Representatives and the Senate?

NationalWorld takes a look at how the midterms actually work, and how it differs to the UK. Here’s everything you need to know.

What are the US midterm elections?

They are elections held in the US two years after a presidential election takes place and two years before the next presidential vote is due to take place. This year’s mideterms are taking place on Tuesday, 8 November.

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For many voters, it allows them to give their verdict on the progress of policy so far in the terms, while also shaping the ability for the President, whether they be Republican or Democrat, to legislate in the remaining 24 months of their term. Not only can voters vote at a national level, but they can also vote at a state-by-state level, which could have far-reaching consequences.

What is the House of Representatives?

The House of Representatives is the lower of the two chambers of the US Congress. No more than 435 politicians proportionately represent the 50 US states, with these representatives commonly referred to as Congressman or Congresswoman.

The US will be electing new representatives and senators during the 2022 Midterm elections. (Credit: Getty Images)The US will be electing new representatives and senators during the 2022 Midterm elections. (Credit: Getty Images)
The US will be electing new representatives and senators during the 2022 Midterm elections. (Credit: Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

They each serve a two-year term, with elections taking place during the presidential vote and the midterms. The House of Representatives introduces bills and legislation at a federal level, with Congressmen and Congresswomen also taking part in committees.

What is the US Senate?

The US Senate is the upper chamber of the US Congress. Those elected to the house are known as senators - these senators are grouped into three different classes, with staggered elections every two years.

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There are currently 100 senators representing the 50 states with two senators to each state serving a six-year term. The main purpose of the Senate is to provide advice and consent to the House of Representatives.

This includes but is not limited to approving treaties, confirming federal judges and adjudicating impeachment proceedings brought forward by the House of Representatives. Both chambers - the House of Representatives and the Senate - must approve an identical legislative document for it to be passed.

Why are the 2022 midterm elections important?

During the 2022 Midterms, Americans will be voting on 34 senator positions and all 435 representative positions. The choice between electing a Republican or Democrat representative and senator can have a far-reaching impact.

Dr Colin Provost, associate professor of public policy at UCL, explains: “The midterms are important largely because control of Congress, the legislative branch of the federal government, is at stake. But also control of about 35 state governments are. So there’s control for quite a bit of the policymaking arena, that within Congress, all 435 congressmen and women are up for re-election in the House of Representatives in the lower house.

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“In the House of Representatives, they serve two year terms. So not only can the direction of policymaking shift in several states, but it can at the federal level as well. So currently, President Biden has democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, but it’s looking quite likely that the House will flip to the Republicans and the Senate is a toss up at the moment.”

Therefore, a Republican win in the House and Senate could prevent President Biden from introducing some key policies he had campaigned on during his presidential campaign in 2020. It would mean President Biden may find it difficult to legislate on issues such as erasing student debt and the economy.

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