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

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.

No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. (REUTERS)
Updated 56 min 45 sec ago

No quick breakthrough in Taliban talks, warns Ghani

  • The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban
  • Afghan president says deal not possible without a ‘regional consensus’

KABUL: President Ashraf Ghani said late on Friday that a breakthrough in Afghanistan’s peace process will require more time.
“We consider the US commitment to a political solution to be credible and are coordinating to build the necessary international consensus on peace. But without a regional consensus on peace and addressing Taliban’s interdependencies with their supporters, breakthroughs will take time,” Ghani said.
Ghani made the comments on Friday at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. His remarks are his first in public since a series of talks between US special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, and Taliban emissaries held in recent months in Qatar.
Afghan government delegates were excluded from the discussions because the Taliban consider Ghani’s administration a puppet of the West.
Khalilzad is in Afghanistan hoping to revive talks between the Taliban and other Afghans, including government delegates, after Ghani called off such a gathering in April in Qatar. Ghani summoned a grand traditional assembly, or Loya Jirga, afterwards in Kabul to set a mechanism for talks with the Taliban.
In Bishkek, Ghani said his government’s mandate for seeking peace with the Taliban comes from the 23-point resolution of the Jirga.
He said that “although the Afghan war is multi-dimensional, reaching a peace agreement with the Taliban is a key component for the reduction of violence.”
Ghani put forward four proposals for an Afghan peace deal. It includes the formation of a regional and international coalition for peace and the creation of a regional task force to develop bankable programs and projects for regional connectivity and poverty reduction.
He said dealing with drugs as a driver of conflict and criminality should be comprehensively addressed within the peace-making and peace-building framework. Agreeing to a regional framework for fighting terrorism was also essential.
Ghani said his government will hold the presidential elections on Sept. 28, which have been delayed twice so far. Some of Ghani’s rivals accuse him of using government resources in his favor for the poll, while other politicians, including Khalilzad, favor postponing the poll until the talks with Taliban have finished so that the latter can also take part in the elections.
Jamaludin Badar, a former governor who is a member of the government-appointed High Peace Council, said that, given the regional and international involvement in Afghanistan’s long war and the complication of the conflict, headway cannot been expected soon in the talks.
“There are countries in the region and beyond who want their interest to be protected in Afghanistan post the peace deal,” he told Arab News. “So it is natural for the peace process to drag on and on. These countries have a consensus on ending the war, but not on their interests and future involvement here.”
Nazar Mohammad Mutmaeen, an analyst, said: “Ghani wants to remain in power for another five years and makes different comments at different juncture of time. The Taliban do not trust Ghani ... and there is no possibility of any compromise between Ghani and the Taliban.”