U.S. election: With majority in House and Senate, Republicans hopeful for 'unified' government
Voters wanted change atop ticket, but incumbents like McCain, Grassley, Schumer return
Republican leaders expressed optimism in working with president-elect Donald Trump on a shared agenda now that the party controls the House, Senate and presidency.
Democrats, as well as some Republicans, had expected Trump's controversial campaign would hurt some Republican congressional candidates and even flip some reliably red states in the presidential race, but that wasn't the case as he went on to victory.
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Republicans this year were defending 24 seats; the Democrats, 10. The Democrats needed to gain five seats to take an outright majority and didn't get there. There was just two seats flipped as a result of Tuesday's voting.
Republicans entered the election with 54 seats, Democrats with 44, and independents with two.
Republicans will end up with 51 or 52 seats.
The party lost clearly in Illinois, where Mark Kirke was unseated by Tammy Duckworth, who has served in the House. In a race that took until Wednesday afternoon to conclude a winner, incumbent senator Kelly Ayotte conceded in New Hampshire to Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan.
Louisiana, meanwhile, requires a candidate to win with 50 per cent. Democrat Foster Campbell and John Kennedy will contest a run-off in December, with the Republican favoured to win.
Democrats had been nearly certain of retaking control but saw their hopes fizzle as endangered Republican incumbents won in Missouri, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and even Democrat-friendly Wisconsin.
Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, who will remain as Senate majority leader, issued a statement congratulating the president-elect.
"After eight years of the Obama administration, the American people have chosen a new direction for our nation. President-elect Trump has a significant opportunity to bring our nation together," McConnell said early Wednesday.
In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, McConnell said repealing Obamacare is a "pretty high item on our agenda" for the new Congress, calling it the "worst piece of legislation" from the first two years of Barack Obama's administration.
McConnell told reporters he would like to see bipartisan comprehensive tax reform, and that border security should also be high on the to-do list. He expects Trump to send the Senate a Supreme Court nominee soon, and to review environmental regulations put in place by Obama, including on coal.
"Most of the things he's likely to advocate, we're going to be enthusiastically for," McConnell said.
Senators serve six-year terms. A third of the Senate is up for re-election every two years. Procedural rules in the Senate require 60 votes to advance major initiatives.
Should incumbents John McCain and Chuck Grassley serve another full term, they will be 86 and 89 years of age, respectively.
In New York, Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democrats' leader-in-waiting for a new Congress, easily won re-election. But the results elsewhere meant he will be leading a Senate minority when he replaces Nevada's Harry Reid in the leader's role.
Catherine Cortez Masto is projected to hold Reid's seat, which would make her the first Latina senator.
Some of the key Senate races on election day were:
- Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, 80, held off a challenge from Democratic Representative Ann Kirkpatrick, 66. McCain, a Vietnam War hero and his party's presidential nominee in 2008, has had some public differences with Trump.
- Florida Republican Marco Rubio, who failed to win his party's presidential nomination, bested Democratic Representative Patrick Murphy, 43. Rubio, 45, had been expected to enter the private sector after losing Florida's Republican primary to Trump, but he changed his mind after party leaders recruited him.
- Indiana Democrat Evan Bayh, 60, failed to recapture the Senate seat he abandoned in 2010. Republican Representative Todd Young, 44, will replace Republican Senator Dan Coats, who is retiring.
- Illinois Democratic Representative Tammy Duckworth ousted Republican Senator Mark Kirk. The 57-year-old incumbent suffered a stroke that sidelined him for much of 2012 and was considered one of the most vulnerable Republicans seeking re-election this year. Duckworth, 48, is a double-amputee Iraq War veteran.
- Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt, 66, defeated Democrat Jason Kander, 35, a veteran of the Afghanistan war and Missouri's secretary of state.
- North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr, 60, was re-elected. He defeated Democrat Deborah Ross, 53, a former state legislator.
- Ohio Republican Rob Portman, 60, defeated Democratic challenger Ted Strickland, 75, a former governor. Portman kept Trump at a distance leading up to Tuesday's election. He didn't campaign with the nominee and withdrew his endorsement when a 2005 tape of Trump making lewd comments about kissing and groping women surfaced last month.
- Pennsylvania Republican Senator Patrick Toomey, 54, beat Democrat Katie McGinty, 53. Toomey had refused to take a position on Trump.
- Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson, 61, beat Democrat Russ Feingold, 63, in a rematch of the 2010 Senate race.
House of Representatives
All 435 seats were up for grabs.
Republicans, who have held the House since 2011, went into the elections holding 246 seats to the Democrats' 186. There were three vacancies. By Wednesday morning, Republicans were on pace for at least 236 — guaranteeing control — and few of their incumbents had lost.
They were leading in four other races. The Democrats had 191 in their column and were leading in four.
Members of the House serve two-year terms and all are up for re-election every two years. To advance most bills in the House, 218 votes or more are needed.
House Speaker Paul Ryan told a news conference he would "work hand in hand" with Trump even though the two weren't friendly during the election.
"Donald Trump will lead a unified Republican government," Ryan said, adding his relationship with the president-elect "is fine."
With files from Reuters