GOP main­tains grip on Congress

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Repub­li­cans thwarted Demo­cratic ef­forts to re­take Congress in Tues­day’s his­toric US elec­tion, us­ing a show of con­ser­va­tive force to main­tain con­trol of the Se­nate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Rid­ing the coat­tails of pop­ulist Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Don­ald Trump, who proved no drag on fel­low con­ser­va­tives as he steam­rolled to White House vic­tory over Hil­lary Clin­ton, the party man­aged to re­pel the Democrats’ sharp threat in the 100-mem­ber Se­nate.

The cham­ber was in Repub­li­can hands, 54 to 46 and in dan­ger of slid­ing into Demo­cratic con­trol. But they ral­lied to min­i­mize their losses, with in­cum­bents in the bat­tle­ground states of Penn­syl­va­nia, North Carolina and Wis­con­sin snatch­ing cru­cial vic­to­ries to pre­vent a blue takeover. “This is a big night for Repub­li­cans, a tes­ta­ment to what can be ac­com­plished when our party comes to­gether,” Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man Reince Priebus said in a state­ment.

“With a Repub­li­can Congress firmly in place and Don­ald Trump in the White House, we can get to work on fix­ing Wash­ing­ton and bring­ing pros­per­ity back to the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” Just days ago, polls pre­dicted a four-seat swing or higher in fa­vor of Clin­ton’s Democrats, in large part be­cause Repub­li­cans held 24 of the 34 seats up for grabs in 2016. But it was not meant to be. In the House, Repub­li­cans were on track to take 239 seats to the Democrats’ 196, ac­cord­ing to NBC’s House model. That would be an eight-seat gain for Democrats, but still well short of what would be nec­es­sary to snatch the 435-mem­ber cham­ber back from Repub­li­can con­trol.

Trump’s White House vic­tory marks a stun­ning po­lit­i­cal tri­fecta for Repub­li­cans that would al­low them to con­trol the leg­is­la­tion that makes its way through Congress and to the pres­i­dent’s desk. Snatch­ing con­trol of the Se­nate would have pro­vided Democrats with a pol­icy check on Trump in the event he won the pres­i­dency. In­stead, Trump will have an eas­ier time push­ing through leg­is­la­tion.

Democrats needed to gain five seats for a clean ma­jor­ity. In the event the Se­nate is 50-50, con­trol goes to the party that wins the White House, be­cause the US vice pres­i­dent holds a de­cid­ing vote in the event of a tie. Democrats claimed a quick pick up Tues­day in Illi­nois, where two-term con­gress­woman Tammy Duck­worth, an Iraq war vet­eran who lost her legs when the Black Hawk helicopter she was co-pi­lot­ing was shot down there, de­feated in­cum­bent Se­na­tor Mark Kirk.

But Se­na­tor Marco Ru­bio kept his seat in Florida, as did in­cum­bent Richard Burr in North Carolina, while con­gress­man Todd Young of In­di­ana de­nied a for­mer se­na­tor, Evan Bayh, from re­claim­ing his old seat. When Se­na­tor Pat Toomey was pro­jected as win­ner of his tough re-elec­tion fight against Katie McGinty, an en­vi­ron­men­tal aide to then-pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton, Demo­cratic hopes of re­gain­ing the cham­ber were dashed.

Ru­bio had been a rapidly ris­ing GOP star un­til he chal­lenged Trump for the Repub­li­can pri­mary and got swept aside. He had said he would leave Congress, but changed his mind ear­lier this year and mounted a strong come­back. In a vic­tory speech be­fore ju­bi­lant sup­port­ers in Mi­ami, Ru­bio sought to soothe heated tem­pers and ap­peal to Amer­i­cans of all stripes af­ter a toxic 18-month pres­i­den­tial cam­paign over­whelmed by rhetoric, ac­cu­sa­tions of racism and xeno­pho­bia, and anger on both sides. “While we can dis­agree on is­sues, we can­not share a coun­try where peo­ple hate each other be­cause of their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions,” Ru­bio, 45, said. “I hope that I and my col­leagues as we return to work in Wash­ing­ton, DC can set a bet­ter ex­am­ple of how po­lit­i­cal dis­course should ex­ist in this coun­try.” — AFP

MIN­NEAPO­LIS: Il­han Omar, can­di­date for State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for District 60B, ar­rives for her vic­tory party on elec­tion night on Tues­day. Omar, a refugee from So­ma­lia, is the first So­mali-Amer­i­can Mus­lim woman to hold pub­lic of­fice. — AFP

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