3 Nov 2010

US midterms: Congress split as Republicans take House

The Republicans have won control of the House but President Barack Obama’s Democrats have retained the Senate in the United States midterm elections.

Republicans capture the House but the Democrats retain power in the Senate after the US midterm elections (Reuters).

The midterms, seen as a referendum on the first two years of President Obama’s time in power, have delivered political gridlock for the US.

Voters who felt let down by the President and disgruntled with a lack of economic progress switched to the Republican Party, handing them control of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Congress.

A Republican House will be able to push through conservative legislation on majority votes, such as measures to shrink government or cut taxes. But the Senate, still held by the Democrats despite Republican gains, could stop those bills – including an expected attempt to repeal the overhaul of US healthcare.

President Obama called Republican John Boehner, expected to be the next Speaker of the House, and said he was “looking forward to working with him and the Republicans to find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the American people”, the White House said.

Mr Boehner, speaking to supporters after he was re-elected, said: “Our new majority will be prepared to do things differently. It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it, reducing the size of government instead of increasing it, and reforming the way Congress works.”

America votes in midterm elections (Reuters).
Channel 4 News special report on the US midterm elections

Dick Durbin, the assistant Senate Democratic leader, said the results of the midterms meant “no significant legislation will pass without input from Republicans. We need to move beyond [Republican] filibusters and enter a real conversation about passing legislation that this country needs.”

The shift to the Republicans is the biggest since the Democrats lost 75 House seats in 1948. In 1994, President Bill Clinton lost 54 House seats. Results and projections suggested that the Democrats have lost at least 57 seats in these 2010 midterms.

Tea Party

Candidates from the controversial Tea Party movement had a mixed night, with wins for Kentucky’s Rand Paul and Florida’s Marco Rubio, but a loss for one of its most famous candidates, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware.

In one of the more high-profile Senate races, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid saw off Tea Party favourite Sharron Angle in Nevada. First Lady Michelle Obama spoke yesterday at a rally for him in Las Vegas.

In other key races, Democrat Joe Manchin won the Senate race in West Virginia, beating Republican John Raese, after he distanced himself from President Obama’s healthcare overhaul and won support from the state’s coal industry.

Sarah Palin and the Tea Party in the US midterm elections (Reuters).
Read more: Who Knows Who looks at the movers and shakers behind the Tea Party 

In another blow for the President, his former Senate seat in Illinois was won by Republican Mark Kirk.

And in California voters elected Jerry Brown as governor again, choosing the 72-year old who ran the state in the 1970s over former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman.

Up for grabs

All 435 seats in the House of Representatives were up for election, 37 of the 100 Senate seats, governorships of 37 of the 50 states and all but four state legislatures.

How does today compare with the historic night two years ago when Barack Obama won the presidential election? Watch the Channel 4 News programme from 4 November 2008.