With no mandate, Trump, Pelosi agree to work together
President Trump and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi insisted Wednesday that they can find areas of cooperation on infrastructure spending and health care, vowing to play nice just one day after voters split control of Washington between the two parties.
Democrats were still waiting to hear how big their House majority would be, while Republicans were eyeing results in several Senate races that will determine how much they grow their numbers in the upper chamber. But it wasn’t clear that either party emerged with a clear mandate, save for Democrats’
claims that the country wants them to conduct oversight on Mr. Trump.
The president countered that Democrats can choose to work on issues together, or they can pursue their lengthy list of investigations against the administration, but they cannot do both.
“If that happens, then we’re going to do the same thing and government comes to a halt,” the president said at a press conference, taking stock of the election results.
Several major races are still pending. Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams, trailing in the Georgia governor’s race, has vowed to send it into overtime, trying to orchestrate a runoff by pushing Republican Brian Kemp’s share of the vote under the 50 percent threshold.
In Florida, Republican candidate Rick Scott appears to have defeated Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, but the race may end up in an automatic recount.
Hundreds of thousands of ballots were still being counted in Arizona, where Republicans are trying to hold on to a seat. Republican Rep. Martha McSalley held a slim lead over Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat.
When the Senate races are decided in Florida and Arizona, Republicans will have 52 to 54 seats.
In the House, Democrats will hold at least 222 seats to Republicans’ 196.
Whatever the final tally, Democrats’ majority will be slim enough that they will have to worry about defectors on both the right and left wings of their party.
Mr. Trump said he almost prefers it this way, with Democrats in control rather than a slim Republican lead.
“It really could be a beautiful, bipartisan type of situation. If we won by one or two or three or four or five, that wouldn’t happen, and the closer it is, the worse it is,” he said. “This way, they’ll come to me, we’ll negotiate, maybe we’ll make a deal, maybe we won’t, that’s possible.”
Mrs. Pelosi, too, offered grand visions of deals.
“We’re not going for the lowest common denominator; we’re going for the boldest common denominator,” she said at her own press conference.
She said Democrats aren’t itching for fights but will use Congress’ oversight powers judiciously to expose wrongdoing within the administration. She batted aside questions about specific fights, such as Mr. Trump’s demand for more money for his border wall.
Asked why she was confident that she could achieve bipartisanship, she quoted civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. and former President Ronald Reagan as inspirations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican who will have to forge a partnership with Mrs. Pelosi, said they worked together when they were senior members of subcommittees in their respective chambers.
He said infrastructure spending will be an area of potential cooperation.
But he said the Senate’s chief priority will be confirming Mr. Trump’s nominees, including judicial picks. He said that should be easier in the next session because the Senate will be spending less time on House-passed legislation.
“I don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding time to do nominations,” he told reporters.
Neither side in Congress seemed enthusiastic about the chances for an immigration deal — though Mr. Trump said once the courts have issued a final ruling on the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals deportation amnesty, he thinks a deal for illegal immigrant “Dreamers” could be quickly reached.
But Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, sounded a dissonant note. He called Mr. Trump a “poor negotiator” and suggested that Congress works better when the president butts out.
He said that holds true for the spending bills Congress must negotiate by early December.
“I would hope that the president wouldn’t interfere, and we could get something good done,” Mr. Schumer said.
His position as leader appears safe despite having lost seats in his first election in charge.
He said he was waiting for the Florida results and possible recount and that Arizona is “not close to over” with perhaps 600,000 ballots still outstanding.
“We’ve lost one, two, three seats tops,” he said.
Three Democrats — Sens. Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, Joe Donnelly in Indiana and Claire McCaskill in Missouri — had clear losses Tuesday. One sitting Republican, Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada, was ousted.
Republicans hoped for another pickup in Montana, but Sen. Jon Tester claimed victory Wednesday. Ousting the two-term Democrat had been a personal quest for Mr. Trump.
A Mississippi U.S. Senate seat held by Republicans is going to a runoff, but analysts predict Republicans will have little difficulty winning in one of the nation’s most conservative states.
Among governorships, Democrats netted seven, including big states such as Michigan and Illinois, and in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker was ousted after two terms.
But Republicans held on to governor’s mansions in Ohio and Florida, fending off challenges from strong left-wingers.
In the House, Democrats made significant gains in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.
Some 17 races were still being contested late Wednesday, including a large swath in California. The Democratic candidate was leading in seven races, and the Republican was ahead in 10.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, whose party lost one to three seats in the chamber on Tuesday, called President Trump a “poor negotiator.”