Republicans, Democrats vie for control of
Congress on Tuesday
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[November 07, 2016]
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A furious fight for
control of the U.S. Congress being waged alongside the White House race
between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump ends on
Tuesday with elections that will help shape the country's policy
decisions for the next two years.
At stake is Republicans' current grip on the Senate and House of
Representatives. If voters hand power to Democrats in either chamber,
2017 will likely bring a more moderate bent to bills that lawmakers send
to the new president for signing into law.
In order to win control of the Senate outright, Democrats would have to
score a net gain of five seats. Republicans currently hold 54 Senate
seats to 44 Democratic seats and two independents who align themselves
For much of the autumn campaign, political analysts were projecting
Democrats would pick up anywhere from four to seven Senate seats.
But Democrats worried that the FBI's disclosure in late October it was
reviewing newly discovered emails to see if they pertained to Clinton's
use of a private email server while secretary of state might tip some
competitive races toward Republicans.
The FBI said on Sunday the agency had completed its review of the newly
found emails and found no reason to change its July finding that no
criminal charges were warranted against Clinton.
Democrats face a steeper challenge in the House, having to gain 30 seats
to win back the majority they last held in 2010. Some analysts have been
projecting Democrats could pick up anywhere from five to 20 seats.
TIGHT SENATE CONTESTS
Republican control of the 100-seat Senate over the past two years and
the 435-seat House of Representatives since 2011 has brought a sustained
assault against Democratic President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare
law known as Obamacare.
House Republicans have halted progress made in the Senate in 2013 on
comprehensive immigration reform and Republicans have generally pushed
for rolling back spending on domestic programs while trying to limit
environmental and financial industry regulation.
The outcome of the presidential race is expected to have a major impact
on the outcome of the congressional campaigns. In recent decades, the
party that wins the White House has usually fared better in
congressional races too.
For most of the 2016 campaign season, the Senate races have been
center-stage, as Democrats fielded some strong challengers to Republican
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Supporters cheer for U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald
Trump during a rally at Atlantic Aviation in Moon, Pennsylvania,
U.S. November 6, 2016. REUTERS/Mark Makela
Among them are Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is
giving Republican Senator Roy Blunt an unexpectedly stiff challenge,
and former environmental official Katie McGinty, who could unseat
Republican Senator Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.
John McCain, the Vietnam War hero and 2008 Republican presidential
nominee who has served in the Senate for 30 years appears headed to
re-election in a race that has been unusually competitive for him.
A possible 50-50 tie following Tuesday's elections would mean that
the next vice president would cast the tiebreaking vote and
determine which party controls the Senate.
The Senate that will be sworn in on Jan. 3, whether it is held by
Republicans or Democrats, will face a weighty decision early on -
voting on a U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace the conservative
Justice Antonin Scalia who died last February.
Since that time, Senate Republicans have refused to consider Obama's
nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland, arguing the next
president should pick a nominee for Senate review.
Other issues confronting Congress next year include the need to
raise U.S. borrowing authority, something some conservative
Republicans oppose without substantial budget cuts, and possible
approval of free-trade deals with Pacific Rim countries and Europe
if negotiations on the latter conclude successfully.
(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Peter
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