Come January, the House will be composed of an energized conservative Republican majority and a Democratic minority that has become more liberal. At the same time, a more closely divided Senate could make it harder to assemble the 60 votes needed to pass most bills.
That could be a recipe for legislative gridlock.
In the past year, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has struggled to pass legislation even with a 59-seat majority, thwarted by Republican filibusters. The election’s outcome remained uncertain in Alaska and Washington state, but it’s clear Democrats will emerge with a far smaller majority of 52 or 53 seats out of 100.
In such a narrowly divided Senate, a bipartisan coalition will be required to tackle any difficult issue. Yet some Democrats leaving the Senate, like Arkansas’s Blanche Lincoln and Indiana’s Evan Bayh, are among the most open to working with Republicans.
Mr. Reid said the election results left the parties no choice but to work together—and that he wanted to do so. But he also said Republicans have been uniformly obstructionist over the past two years.
WATCH: MORNING AFTER ELECTION ANALYSIS