WASHINGTON - Democrats kept control of the US Senate on
Tuesday night, taking over hotly contested Republican seats in Massachusetts and
Indiana while holding on to most of those they already had, including in
Virginia and Missouri.
While the result was no surprise, Republicans had
given themselves an even chance of winning a majority, so the night represented
a disappointment for them and was in part the self-inflicted result of internal
battles waged in the party.
Had conservative Republican Richard Mourdock
not defeated veteran moderate Richard Lugar in Indiana's primary, for example,
that seat might have stayed in Republican hands instead of being won by Democrat
Joe Donnelly on Tuesday.
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, who also won
on Tuesday, had been considered a vulnerable Democrat until conservative Todd
Akin won the state's primary.
Akin and Mourdock stumbled badly with
remarks about abortion that were interpreted as unsympathetic to rape
The election left the Senate somewhat more polarized, with fewer
moderates generally, more conservatives among the Republicans and more liberals
among the Democrats.
Republicans remained firmly in control of the House
of Representatives, ensuring that Congress still faces a deep partisan divide as
it turns to the year-end "fiscal cliff" that threatens to crush US economic
With President Barack Obama retaining the White House, the status
quo result portends more partisan gridlock.
"That means the same dynamic.
That means the same people who couldn't figure out how to cut deals for the past
three years," said Ethan Siegel, an analyst who tracks Washington politics for
In the Senate, the most significant turnover
victory for Republicans came in Nebraska, where conservative candidate Deb
Fischer, endorsed by former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin,
was the projected winner in a race for the seat of retiring Democrat Ben
Democrat Senator Jon Tester in Montana was still locked in a
close race with Republican Representative Denny Rehnberg early on Wednesday. If
Democrats pick up that seat and two others that were still too close to call
early on Wednesday, they would have 54 seats, plus the expected support of two
independents. They currently control 53 seats in the 100-seat
Two victories underscored the Senate's shift away from moderates
who are more able to find common ground.
Elizabeth Warren, the winner
over moderate Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts, is a consumer activist and
Harvard Law School professor re viled b y Wall Street. In a victory speech, she
vowed to "hold the big guys accountable." "To all the seniors who deserve to
retire with the security they earned, we're going to make sure your Social
Security benefits are protected and that millionaires and billionaires pay their
fair share," Warren old supporters.
In Texas, the seat of a retiring
Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was filled in an easy victory by Republican
Ted Cruz, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement.
starts this week on finding a way to deal with the year-end expiration of
Bush-era tax cuts and the launch of automatic spending cuts, the results point
to a continued bitter divide.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner said
voters wanted to continue Republicans' agenda, but pledged to work "with any
willing partner." "With this vote, the American people also made clear there's
no mandate for raising tax rates," Boehner told party activists in
With Obama's re-election and the Democratic Party retaining a
m ajority in the Senate, Democrats are seen as emboldened to push their plan for
tax fairness - cutting budget deficits by asking wealthy Americans to pay higher
tax rates, while extending lower rates for the middle class.
than two months remain before tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush
expire on Dec. 31, thrusting higher rates on all Americans. Two days later, $109
billion in across-the-board spending cuts begin to bite. If unchecked by
Congress, the fiscal cliff would suck some $600 billion out of the US economy
The top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, called for Democrats and
Republicans to work together, but still managed to get a dig in on his
"The strategy of obstruction, gridlock and delay was soundly
rejected by the American people. Now, they are looking to us for solutions,"
Reid said in a statement.
Democrats take Ohio, Florida and Connecticut
Two of Tuesday's biggest wins for Senate Democrats came from gifts of incendiary
remarks on rape and abortion from conservative Tea Party Republican candidates
in Missouri and Indiana.
McCaskill of Missouri easily defeated Republican
Representative Akin after his comments that women had natural defenses to avoid
pregnancy from "legitimate rape," making abortions unnecessary in the case of
He resisted Republican calls for him to step aside.
Indiana, Mourdock, the state treasurer, stirred controversy when he said that
pregnancy as a result of rape could be "something that God intended." He lost in
an upset to Donnelly, a conservative Democratic congressman.
Democratic Senate will "take its lead from the White House" on top legislative
priorities, a senior Democratic aide said.
The aide added that beyond
attempting fiscal measures, such as major tax reforms and long-term spending
reductions, the Senate in 2013 is likely to try to advance the Obama jobs bill
he unsuccessfully floated during his first term. It is aimed at creating
construction jobs through infrastructure repairs and providing states and local
governments more funds for hiring teachers, firefighters and police.
in a possible Democratic bill to reform US immigration law - a top priority of
Hispanic voters and unions - and "you pretty much have a 2013 (legislative)
agenda," the aide said.
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