The U.S. midterm elections ended with Republicans winning the Senate and Democrats winning back the House. The results represent a setback for Republicans, who had dominated both the Senate and the House, as well as President Donald Trump, who has regarded the election as an opportunity to evaluate his leadership. On the other hand, the results are not entirely unexpected as there have been only three victories of the ruling party for the last 22 midterm elections over the past eight decades.
As Democrats win back half of the Congress power, it will impact the latter half of President Trump’s term. Admittedly, it is unlikely that Trump will revise his policies or style of running the state. Rather, he is likely to accelerate plans to plan and win the next election by focusing on performance. However, check and balance is institutionalized in the U.S. If Trump attempts to dominate power, Democrats will leverage various parliamentary rights to keep the president in check, which will limit unilateral policy execution.
Democrats’ regaining of power will undoubtedly impact U.S.-North Korea denuclearization talks. Above all, if the U.S. Congress is wary of Trump’s North Korea policy, Washington's talks with Pyongyang will be approached with more caution and hesitation. The House of Representatives has less influence over foreign policy compared to the Senate, which holds the authority to approve appointment of state officials and ratify treaties, but it is growing more influential by its powers related to budgeting, approve legislations and supervision. It is not difficult to limit discretionary powers of the administration and put the brakes on specific policies.
The new House Democratic majority has voiced extreme distrust over the Trump’s "big-deal" type talks with North Korea, asserting that North Korea should permanently discard its nuclear weapons, missiles and chemical and biological weapons. They have also argued that North Korean human rights, which Trump has turned a blind eye to, should be tabled. Backed by both Senate and House support, the Trump administration may have taken full advantage of administrative discretion until now. With the outcome of the elections, however, it should be more wary of Congress and pay closer attention to public opinion.
Coincidentally, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's meeting with his North Korean counterpart scheduled for Thursday in New York has been postponed immediately after the election results. The delay of the talks, which had been counted on to break the prolonged deadlock between the two countries, is not irrelevant with changes in the U.S. political landscape. North Korea should give up wishful thinking of coaxing Trump into the deal. Summits that appear more as show-off events and explosion of nuclear sites will no longer work. It is now time for North Korea to come to the table with real and actionable plans.