The GOP holds the Se­nate as Trump al­lies win in In­di­ana, Ten­nessee and North Dakota.

Democrats hope vot­ers up­set with Trump flock to polls

Houston Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Sean Sul­li­van

Repub­li­cans ce­mented con­trol of the Se­nate for two more years Tues­day and po­si­tioned them­selves for a more con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity, with vic­to­ries by can­di­dates who aligned closely with Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

North Dakota Rep. Kevin Cramer and In­di­ana busi­ness­man Mike Braun, both staunch Trump al­lies, won seats held by Democrats. Rep. Mar­sha Black­burn, a Repub­li­can and an­other Trump loy­al­ist, de­feated a pop­u­lar for­mer gov­er­nor in Ten­nessee.

The re­sults held im­pli­ca­tions for com­ing bat­tles over the fed­eral ju­di­ciary, trade, health care, gov­ern­ment spend­ing and im­mi­gra­tion. Trump’s world­view is ex­pected to be re­flected strongly in those de­bates in the wake of Tues­day’s elec­tions.

The out­comes also held sig­nif­i­cance for Trump him­self. His ad­min­is­tra­tion could face an on­slaught of in­ves­ti­ga­tions be­gin­ning next year, as Democrats closed in on a takeover in the House. Some Democrats have even raised the pos­si­bil­ity of im­peach­ment.

With the map in their fa­vor, Repub­li­cans — who cur­rently con­trol both cham­bers of Congress — were on track to pre­serve and ex­pand their 51-49 ad­van­tage in the Se­nate. An­a­lysts across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum had fa­vored them to re­main in power, even as they said Democrats were likely to wrest con­trol of the House.

“I see two things,” said Jim Man­ley, a for­mer top Demo­cratic Se­nate aide, look­ing ahead. “A pres­i­dent un­will­ing to tone down his rhetoric, along with the Se­nate Repub­li­cans un­will­ing to break with him.”

Even be­fore Tues­day’s vote, Se­nate Repub­li­cans were poised for a more pro-Trump ros­ter next year. Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who have fre­quently voiced con­cerns about Trump’s tone and his gov­ern­ing phi­los­o­phy, are re­tir­ing. John McCain, a vo­cal Trump critic, died in Au­gust.

Democrats tried to de­feat can­di­dates who marched in lock­step with Trump by run­ning on pre­serv­ing health-care pro­tec­tions and other so-called “kitchen ta­ble” is­sues. In key races, they fell short.

Se­nate Democrats were de­fend­ing 26 of the 35 seats on the bal­lot, in­clud­ing 10 in states Trump won. They were hop­ing to off­set their losses with some gains.

Many Demo­cratic Se­nate con­tenders railed against Trump’s tar­iffs dur­ing the cam­paign. In Ten­nessee, for­mer gov­er­nor Phil Bre­desen, who lost, cast the tar­iffs as harm­ful to the state’s au­to­mo­bile, farm­ing and whiskey in­dus­tries.

The Se­nate Repub­li­can agenda is not ex­pected to be nearly as am­bi­tious as the past two years, when the GOP con­trolled the fed­eral gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing Trump’s sur­prise win. A Demo­cratic House takeover would likely be a ma­jor im­ped­i­ment to reach­ing an agree­ment on most big is­sues, should Repub­li­cans re­tain the Se­nate.

Even in that sce­nario, the Se­nate will still have to nav­i­gate some high-stakes bat­tles. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion is pre­par­ing for a mas­sive, post-midterm shakeup, which could trig­ger nom­i­na­tions for at­tor­ney gen­eral and other cab­i­net posts the Se­nate would be tasked with con­firm­ing in the months ahead.

A loom­ing de­bate over health care and the out­come of Repub­li­can law­suit against the Af­ford­able Care Act could prompt fur­ther con­sid­er­a­tion of tweaks to the law. Im­mi­gra­tion, which Trump and the Repub­li­cans made a cen­ter­piece of their midterm pitch, could spark a new de­bate about bor­der se­cu­rity fund­ing.

Congress will also have to ap­prove or re­ject a sweep­ing trade deal Trump spear­headed with Mex­ico and Canada. More ba­sic tasks like fund­ing the fed­eral gov­ern­ment could be fur­ther com­pli­cated by an ide­o­log­i­cal shift.

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