Democrats retake US House, Republicans keep Senate

President Donald Trump's Republicans maintained their Senate majority in crucial midterms, networks projected Tuesday. (AP)
Updated 07 November 2018
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Democrats retake US House, Republicans keep Senate

  • Democrats will pick up the 23 seats necessary to win a House majority
  • But Republicans struck back in the 100-member Senate, where they ousted at least two Democrats

WASHINGTON: Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump to win control of the US House of Representatives on Tuesday, Fox News and NBC News projected, giving Democrats the opportunity to block Trump’s agenda and open his administration to intense scrutiny.

In midterm elections two years after he won the White House, Trump and his fellow Republicans were set to maintain their majority in the US Senate, CNN, NBC and ABC News said, following a divisive campaign marked by fierce clashes over race, immigration and other cultural issues.

At last count, Democrats had gained a net 14 of the 23 Republican-held seats needed to capture a majority.

With a House majority, Democrats will have the power to investigate Trump’s tax returns and possible conflicts of interest, and challenge his overtures to Saudi Arabia, Russia and North Korea.

They also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package or carry out his hardline policies on trade.

S&P equity index futures erased most of their gains on expectations Democrats would seize the House.

A simple House majority would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence surfaces that he obstructed justice or that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. But Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Democrats in the House could be banking on launching an investigation using the results of US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s already 18-month-old probe of allegations of Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies meddling and Trump denies any collusion.

Tuesday’s result was a bitter outcome for Trump, a 72-year-old former reality TV star and businessman-turned-politician, after a campaign that became a referendum on his leadership.

Down the stretch, Trump hardened his rhetoric on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed to the border with Mexico and condemnations of liberal American “mobs.”

Democrats turned out in droves to register disapproval of his divisive rhetoric and policies on such issues as immigration and his travel ban targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

A record number of women ran for office this election, many of them Democrats turned off by Trump’s policy agenda.

The election results mean Democrats will resume House control in January for the first time since the 2010 election, beginning a split-power arrangement with the Republican-led Senate that may force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions and focus on issues with bipartisan support, such as an infrastructure improvement package or protections against prescription drug price increases.

It also will test Trump’s ability to compromise, something he has shown little interest in over the last two years with Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress.

The loss of power will test Trump’s political hold on House Republicans, most of whom had pledged their support for him lest they face the wrath of the party’s core supporters, who remain in his corner.

Most Democratic candidates in tight races stayed away from harsh criticism of Trump during the campaign’s final stretch, focusing instead on bread-and-butter issues like keeping down health care costs, maintaining insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and safeguarding the Social Security retirement and Medicare health care programs for senior citizens.

The final weeks before the election were marked by the mailing of pipe bombs to his top political rivals, with a political fan of Trump arrested and charged, and the mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue in which 11 people died, sparking a debate about Trump’s biting rhetoric and whether it encouraged extremists.

In the House, Democrats picked up seats across the map, ousting incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock in suburban Virginia and sending Donna Shalala, a former Cabinet secretary under President Bill Clinton, to the House in south Florida.

In the Senate, where Republicans were heavily favored to keep control heading into Tuesday’s voting, Republican Mike Braun captured incumbent Joe Donnelly’s seat in Indiana and Republican Kevin Cramer beat incumbent Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota.

Some of the biggest Democratic stars of the campaign season were struggling. Liberal House member Beto O’Rourke became a national sensation with his underdog US Senate campaign but fell short in conservative Texas, and Andrew Gillum was trailing Republican Ron DeSantis in his quest to become the first African-American governor of the key swing state of Florida.

Incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Manchin won a hotly contested race in conservative West Virginia, and conservative Marsha Blackburn held a Senate seat for Republicans.

Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont, a 2016 Democratic presidential contender, and Tim Kaine of Virginia, Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential nominee in 2016, easily won re-election, news networks projected. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown was projected to hold his seat in Ohio.

All 435 seats in the House, 35 seats in the 100-member Senate and 36 of the 50 state governorships were up for grabs.


Sri Lanka police hunt 140 after Easter bombings as shooting erupts in east

Updated 8 min 24 sec ago
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Sri Lanka police hunt 140 after Easter bombings as shooting erupts in east

  • Muslims in Sri Lanka were urged to pray at home Friday after warning of possible car bomb attacks
  • President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with Daesh since 2013

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan police are trying to track down 140 people believed linked to Daesh, which claimed responsibility for the Easter Sunday suicide bombings that killed 253, as shooting erupted in the east during a raid.
Muslims in Sri Lanka were urged to pray at home after the State Intelligence Services warned of possible car bomb attacks, amid fears of retaliatory violence.
And the US Embassy in Sri Lanka urged its citizens to avoid places of worship over the weekend after authorities reported there could be more attacks targeting religious centers.
Archbishop of Colombo Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith told reporters he had seen a leaked internal security document warning of further attacks on churches and there would be no Catholic masses this Sunday anywhere on the island.
The streets of Colombo were deserted on Friday evening, with many people leaving offices early amid tight security after the suicide bombing attacks on three churches and four hotels that also wounded about 500 people.
President Maithripala Sirisena told reporters some Sri Lankan youths had been involved with Daesh since 2013. He said information uncovered so far suggested there were 140 people in Sri Lanka involved in Daesh activities.
“Police are looking to arrest them,” Sirisena said.
Nearly 10,000 soldiers were deployed across the Indian Ocean island state to carry out searches and provide security for religious centers, the military said on Friday.
The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ullama, Sri Lanka’s main Islamic religious body, urged Muslims to conduct prayers at home in case “there is a need to protect family and properties.”
Illustrating the tension that has gripped the country, shooting erupted between security forces and a group of men in the east during a search and cordon operation, a military spokesman said.
The raid took place in the town of Ampara Sainthamaruthu near Batticaloa. The spokesman said there was an explosion in the area and when soldiers went to investigate they were fired upon. No details of casualties were immediately available.
Police have detained at least 76 people, including foreigners from Syria and Egypt, in their investigations so far.
Daesh provided no evidence to back its claim that it was behind the attacks. If true, it would be one of the worst attacks carried out by the group outside Iraq and Syria.
The extremist group released a video on Tuesday showing eight men, all but one with their faces covered, standing under a black Daesh flag and declaring their loyalty to its leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.
The government said nine homegrown, well-educated suicide bombers carried out the attacks, eight of whom had been identified. One was a woman.
Authorities have so far focused their investigations on international links to two domestic extremist groups — National Thawheed Jama’ut and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim — they believe carried out the attacks.
Government officials have acknowledged a major lapse in not widely sharing an intelligence warning from India before the attacks.
Sirisena said top defense and police chiefs had not shared information with him about the impending attacks. Defense Secretary Hemasiri Fernando resigned over the failure to prevent the attacks.
“The police chief said he will resign now,” Sirisena said.
He blamed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government for weakening the intelligence system by focusing on the prosecution of military officers over alleged war crimes during a decade-long civil war with Tamil separatists that ended in 2009.
Sirisena fired Wickremesinghe in October over political differences, only to reinstate him weeks later under pressure from the Supreme Court.
Opposing factions aligned to Wickremesinghe and Sirisena have often refused to communicate with each other and blame any setbacks on their opponents, government sources say.
Cardinal Ranjith said that the church had been kept in the dark about intelligence warning of attacks.
“We didn’t know anything. It came as a thunderbolt for us,” he said.
The Easter Sunday bombings shattered the relative calm that had existed in Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka since the civil war against mostly Hindu ethnic Tamil separatists ended.
Sri Lanka’s 22 million people include minority Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Until now, Christians had largely managed to avoid the worst of the island’s conflict and communal tensions.
Most of the victims were Sri Lankans, although authorities said at least 38 foreigners were also killed, many of them tourists sitting down to breakfast at top-end hotels when the bombers struck.
They included British, US, Australian, Turkish, Indian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch and Portuguese nationals. Britain warned its nationals on Thursday to avoid Sri Lanka unless it was absolutely necessary.
Fears of retaliatory sectarian violence have already caused Muslim communities to flee their homes amid bomb scares, lockdowns and security sweeps.
But at the Kollupitiya Jumma Masjid mosque, tucked away in a Colombo side street, hundreds attended a service they say was focused on a call for people of all religions to help return peace to Sri Lanka.
“It’s a very sad situation,” said 28-year-old sales worker Raees Ulhaq, as soldiers hurried on dawdling worshippers and sniffer dogs nosed their way through pot-holed lanes.
“We work with Christians, Buddhists, Hindus. It has been a threat for all of us because of what these few people have done to this beautiful country.”