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Republicans Win Big Posted:11.06.02
Republicans maintain control of the House of Representatives and recapture the Senate in a sweep of election victories that shows strong support for President Bush and his policies.
In a historic series of victories, the party of the president, which traditionally loses seats in a mid-term election, strengthened its majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and, more significantly, took control of the U.S. Senate.
Republicans are calling the results a strong show of support for president and his policies.
"The American people said, 'Yes, we trust this man and we want to have a Congress that will work with him and will get some things done,'" said Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), who is likely to assume more power soon as the Senate majority leader.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Democrats' campaigns suffered because it was hard for candidates to compete with White House statements about a potential U.S. military intervention in Iraq and developments in the war on terrorism.
"We faced an unprecedented challenge of trying to yell above the White House," she said.
Republicans take control
Out of 100 Senate seats, Republicans emerged with 51 to the Democrats' 46. Two races are still awaiting final outcomes, and there is one independent in the chamber.
The biggest surprises were in Missouri and Georgia, where Republicans took Senate seats away from Democrats. In Minnesota, Republican challenger Norm Coleman, the former mayor of St. Paul, beat former Vice President Walter Mondale, who stepped in after Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash eleven days before Election Day.
The results mean that a single party, the Republicans, will once again control both houses of Congress and the White House. The Republican Party lost the Senate in June 2001, when Senator James Jeffords of Vermont left the party and became an independent, shifting control to the Democrats.
On the House side, Republicans won at least 226 seats, up from the 223 they had going into the election. In the 435-member House, 218 seats are needed for control.
The last president whose party gained seats in both houses of Congress in a midterm election was Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, 68 years ago.
Reasons behind the Republican wins
Most observers attributed the Republican victory to President Bush's aggressive campaign efforts. The president helped raise more than $180 million for candidates and spent much of the last two weeks campaigning in key areas.
"The president played a very constructive role in helping to break history," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
However, Bill Galston, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, said Democrats themselves were to blame for their losses.
"The most significant fact politically of the past 18 months has been the incapacity of the Democratic Party to mount an effective critique of the Bush economic program or propose a meaningful alternative to it," Galston said.
Some Democrats said it may be time for new leadership in the House.
"It's obvious that we need some fresh faces and in some cases fresh ideas," one of the younger House members, Tennessee Rep. Harold Ford, said.
As President Bush campaigned for Republican candidates from coast to coast, he was clear about what he wanted to get done. He wants Congress to create a new Homeland Security Department and pass long-range tax cuts. He also wants the Senate to confirm conservative federal judges.
White House officials say the new Republican-controlled Senate will concentrate on issues that had been bottled up in the Senate while Democrats were in charge, including the president's energy plan calling for drilling in Alaska's wildlife refuge, his "faith-based" initiative to boost religious charities and an extension of the 1996 welfare reform law, which was shelved earlier this year after disagreements with Democrats who favored more funding and less stringent requirements for welfare support.
The new Republican majority in the Senate is still thin, however, far below the magic number of 60 needed under Senate rules to shut down "filibusters," or interminable debate.
-- By Leah Clapman, NewsHour Extra
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