Washington, Nov 7: Democrats have taken back control of the House of Representatives but not won a majority in the Senate as the historic “blue wave” they hoped for failed to materialise at the midterm elections.
The achievement means that the Republicans no longer hold both wings of the US Congress, handing Donald Trump’s political opponents a stronger foothold in Washington from which to oppose his presidency.
The Democrats now have the numbers to veto Trump’s proposed laws in the House and launch a string of damaging investigations into his administration through the committees they will control.
However in the Senate it was a different story, with Republicans unseating a string of Democratic senators up for re-election in states Trump won in 2016. It indicates many of the president’s supporters are still with him two years into office.
Projections suggested the Republicans could even increase their majority in the Senate, allowing them to push ahead with controversial judicial and cabinet appointments with less fear of rebellions. Trump, quick to put his spin on a night of mixed results, tweeted: “Tremendous success tonight. Thank you to all!” Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said: “Anybody that was anticipating a blue wave tonight is not going to get it.”
In some of the most closely watched races, Democrats lost out. Beto O’Rourke, who had become a pinup for American liberals by running a surprisingly competitive race in Texas, ultimately fell short, with Ted Cruz winning re-election as the state’s senator.
Andrew Gillum, the left-leaning Democrat who was hoping to become Florida’s first ever black governor, was also defeated, narrowly losing to Trump acolyte Ron DeSantis. A number of historic landmarks were reached, with the first Muslim congresswomen, first openly gay male governor and the youngest ever congresswoman (aged 29) all being elected.
The story of the night was that of two different battles playing out – one for control of the House and another for the Senate. In the House races, all eyes were on America’s suburbs. Democrats quickly made gains but failed to pick off seats which would have indicated they were on course for a landslide.
One Republican senator close to Trump, Lindsey Graham, admitted the party would have to address its “suburban women problem” as the Democrats gained seats. Their control of the House will be a huge headache for Trump. His legislative agenda will grind to a hold, with the chances of securing new funding for his US-Mexico border or another tax cut significantly diminished.
The White House is also braced for Democrat-controlled House committees to launch many probes that could damage the president on everything from his tax returns to ties to Russia, using their power to order witnesses to testify. Nancy Pelosi, the woman expected to become the new Democrat Speaker of the House, said in a celebratory speech that Wednesday would be a “new day in America”, adding: “We’ve all had enough of division.”
However in the Senate, it was a different story. Here just a third of senators were up for re-election and the map heavily favoured Republicans, with many Democrats running in states Trump won in 2016. In the end, Republicans appeared on course to exceed expectations. Democrat incumbents were ousted in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota, while Republicans held seats in Tennessee and Texas.
With some states still to call, it was certain Republicans would hold the Senate majority and likely they would increase it by a few seats – a win which the president is sure to seize upon. Trump was credited with energising his voters, countering the enthusiasm displayed by the Democrats.
It meant any hopes of a historic landslide from Trump’s opponents soon faded as results filtered in. Graham said Trump should be “proud” of firing up his base, adding: “President Trump is well on his way to getting re-elected.”