Election News Guide: A new order in Washington
Nov. 05, 2014
WASHINGTON (AP) — A look at the postelection political order and how it came to be:
CONFLICT AND COMMON GROUND
The incoming Republican majority in the Senate and expanded majority in the House might take action to approve the long-delayed Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline, joined by some Democratic lawmakers who support the environmentally contentious project. Also, Sen. Mitch McConnell, in line to become Senate majority leader, could make common cause with President Barack Obama on trade agreements and some tax changes. But plenty of conflict looms in the even more sharply divided government. Immigration policy is one likely flashpoint.
BIPARTISAN HAPPY HOUR?
Obama says he'd like to drink bourbon with McConnell the Kentuckian. The two have rarely met one on one. The president tried to call McConnell after midnight to congratulate him on the big night for the GOP but the senator was in bed; they talked later Wednesday.
Republicans claimed at least 52 seats in the next Senate, a gain of seven, with the outcome still to be decided in Alaska, Virginia and Louisiana, which has a runoff election Dec. 6.
House Republicans expanded their majority, swelling their numbers to heights not seen for perhaps 60 years. They added more than a dozen members and were on track to meet or exceed the 246 seats they held during President Harry S. Truman's administration.
Highlights: Republicans scored upsets in Maryland, Massachusetts and Illinois; won hard-fought re-election in presidential swing states including Florida, Ohio, Illinois; and prevailed in Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker may use his victory as a springboard for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest. They also flipped Arkansas and held on in Kansas, where Gov. Sam Brownback narrowly won re-election.
In Colorado, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper won a nail-biter that was not decided until late Wednesday morning. So did Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy in a Connecticut contest decided even later. Democrats achieved a turnover in Pennsylvania, where Tom Wolf ousted Gov. Tom Corbett.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING
McConnell, in a message meant in part for tea partyers who've blocked budget progress in the past: "There will be no government shutdown or default on the national debt."
McConnell, on Obama's vow to change immigration policy unilaterally if Congress doesn't act: "It's like waving a red flag in front of a bull to say if you guys don't do what I want I'm going to do it on my own."
Obama on the election results: "To everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you. To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too. All of us have to give more Americans a reason to feel like the ground is stable beneath their feet, that the future is secure, that there is a path for young people to succeed, and that folks here in Washington are concerned about them."
In short, much talk of a bipartisan working relationship in Washington. Easier said than done.
The GOP Senate takeover complicates Obama's agenda in his final two years in office and places more expectations on Republicans to use their dual legislative majorities to govern, not just hold up what Obama wants to do.
But Obama can still veto GOP legislation. Senate Democrats can employ the same delaying tactics on GOP initiatives that Republicans have used against them.
Still, it's a new order. The levers of power that come with the majority — committee chairmanships, enhanced abilities to launch investigations that embarrass Democrats, increased budget influence and more — now will fall to the GOP.
SO OBAMA'S HEALTH LAW IS DEAD?
No. It's alive.
Repealing "Obamacare" has been the Republican rallying cry for four years. But they might not be any closer to that goal.
The president is bound to veto bills repealing his chief domestic accomplishment. Republicans would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override Obama. Senate Democrats could delay a straightforward repeal bill.
A potentially more promising route for Republicans would be to pick off unpopular parts of the law, such as some of its taxes and mandates.
If they ever do succeed in repealing the health care overhaul, Republicans could find themselves in a tight spot: What would they do about the estimated 10 million uninsured people who have gained coverage as a result of the law?
HOW THEY DID IT
On the march to Senate control, the GOP switched open seats that had been held by Democrats to their column. Then they added Arkansas, where incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor lost a closely fought race to Republican Tom Cotton. Colorado made it five pickups. Republicans avoided possible losses in Kansas, Georgia and Kentucky. Then came victory in North Carolina, for a net gain of six seats, and the Democratic Senate majority was toast.
A Republican turnover in Iowa made it a gain of seven.
ALSO ON THE BALLOT
Nearly 150 ballot measures were decided Tuesday. Oregon and the District of Columbia legalized the use of recreational pot. In Colorado and North Dakota, voters rejected measures that opponents feared could lead to bans on abortion, while Tennessee voters approved a measure that will give state legislators more power to regulate abortion. Voters in four states approved minimum wage increases.
Associated Press writers Kimberly Hefling, Nedra Pickler, Eric Tucker, Ken Thomas and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.