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Monday, December 22, 2014  

Logjam as Democrats retain Senate, GOP holds House
WASHINGTON Democrats held the Senate and Republicans retained the House of Representatives, projections said on Wednesday, raising the likely prospect of more partisan gridlock in a divided US Congress.

The Republicans suffered multiple blows to their quest to take back control of the Senate, failing to win several hoped-for seats in Tuesday’s elections, as the Democrats added three to their column.

The biggest reverse came in hotly-contested Massachusetts, with television networks giving the win to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, ousting Republican Scott Brown, regaining the seat of late Democratic icon Edward Kennedy.

“For every family that has been chipped at, squeezed and hammered, we’re going to fight for a level playing field and put people back to work. You bet, that’s what we’re going to do,” a triumphant Warren told cheering supporters.

While eyes were focused on the race for the White House, the battle for control of the nation’s two chambers of Congress was vital to chances of making any headway towards easing Washington’s bitterly split politics.

Experts were looking to see if the results could lead lawmakers away from the current stalemate but despite voter disgust with a “do-nothing Congress” in the past two years, there seemed no prospect of change.

Television networks projected early on that Republicans would hold the House after Tuesday as was widely expected, as the Democrats had needed to win back an improbable 25 seats to change the balance of power.

The Republican drive for the Senate suffered its first setback in Maine, where former governor Angus King, an independent who is expected to side with the Democrats, was projected to succeed Republican Olympia Snowe.

The Republicans also lost seats in Connecticut and Indiana, networks said.

The Connecticut defeat was particularly hard to take as Republican hopeful Linda McMahon spent big in her campaign but Democrat Christopher Murphy picked up the seat of outgoing independent Senator Joe Lieberman.

Some 33 of the Senate’s 100 seats were up for grabs, with 23 of those being defended by Democrats, giving Republicans a chance — albeit slim — of gaining four seats and seizing control of the chamber.

That effort unraveled further when Democrats were credited with holding onto Missouri.

In Indiana and Missouri, Republicans Richard Mourdock and Todd Akin became embroiled in pre-election scandals over ill-judged comments about rape and abortion that sparked outrage.

Republicans swept back control of the House of Representatives in mid-term elections in 2010 after a backlash to President Barack Obama’s signature health care reforms.

They have since used their majority in the lower House and their ability to delay legislation in the Senate to thwart the White House incumbent’s plans.

With a dangerous combination of expiring tax breaks and federal spending cuts looming, the US economy could plunge over its so-called “fiscal cliff” in January and Congress will take center stage after Tuesday’s votes are counted.

Much of the attention in the congressional election campaign had centred on Massachusetts, where Republican White House nominee Mitt Romney was governor between 2003 and 2007.

Another state that had been closely watched was Virginia, but Republicans were left hugely disappointed as George Allen failed to take back the seat and conceded victory to Democrat Tim Kaine.

Key Senate races where winners were yet to be declared by the networks were the rural states of Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.

Had conservative Republican Richard Mourdock not defeated veteran moderate Richard Lugar in Indiana’s primary, for example, that seat might have stayed in Republican hands instead of being won by Democrat Joe Donnelly.  

Representative Joe Walsh, another Tea Party activist, soundly lost his bid for a second term representing a district outside of Chicago, and Representative Allen West was losing to his opponent in Florida, Democrat Patrick Murphy. But by early morning, the Miami Herald was reporting that outcome was too close to call.  

Republicans managed to flip one Democratic Senate seat, in Nebraska, where conservative candidate Deb Fischer, endorsed by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, was the projected winner in a race for the seat of retiring Democrat Ben Nelson.  

Democrat Senator Jon Tester in Montana was still locked in a close race with Republican Representative Denny Rehberg early on Wednesday. If Democrats pick up that seat and two others that were still too close to call early on Wednesday, they would have 55 votes, including the independents compared to the 53 they wield now.  

In Texas, the seat of a retiring Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was filled in an easy victory by Republican Ted Cruz, also a favourite of the Tea Party.  

In Texas, the seat of a retiring Republican, Kay Bailey Hutchison, was filled in an easy victory by Ted Cruz, a favourite of the conservative Tea Party movement.  

Obama’s Democrats also beat back Republican challengers in Ohio, Florida, Connecticut and Pennsylvania.  

In Maine, independent Angus King won easily to replace retiring Republican Olympia Snowe and is widely expected to side with Democrats on many issues..  

In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly pulled an upset victory against Republican and Tea Party favorite Richard Mourdock, whose prospects faded after he made inflammatory comments that pregnancy after rape could be “something that God intended.”  

Agencies
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