Boost for Biden, Democrats retain control of Senate

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The win clinches Democratic control in the Senate as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote if the upper chamber is evenly split 50-50…reports Asian Lite News

President Joe Biden’s Democrats retained control of the US Senate on Saturday, a remarkable midterms election result that defied predictions of a Republican win over both houses of Congress.

Midterms traditionally deliver a rejection of the party in power, and with inflation surging and Biden’s popularity in the doldrums, Republicans had been expecting to ride a mighty “red wave” and capture the Senate and the House of Representatives.

But the wave never got much beyond a ripple and on Saturday US networks called the key Senate race in Nevada for Democrat incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, giving the party the 50 seats it needs for an effective majority.

The win clinches Democratic control in the Senate as Vice President Kamala Harris can cast the tie-breaking vote if the upper chamber is evenly split 50-50.

One Senate race remains up in the air — a runoff in Georgia set for December.

The two parties had been neck-and-neck at 49 seats each after Democrat Mark Kelly was projected to win a tight Senate race in Arizona on Friday evening.

The result in the House of Representatives is also hanging in the balance, and while Republicans are slightly favored to take control, it would be with a far smaller majority than they had envisaged going into Tuesday’s election.

Call for unity

In Arizona, Kelly called for unity in a victory speech on Saturday. “After a long election, it can be tempting to remain focused on the things that divide us,” he said.

“But we’ve seen the consequences that come when leaders refuse to accept the truth and focus more on conspiracies of the past than solving the challenges that we face today.”

The former astronaut beat out challenger Blake Masters, who has not yet conceded defeat and was backed by Donald Trump.

The former president was omnipresent on the campaign trail and the Republicans’ poor national performance was a damaging political blow.

Trump’s response to the Arizona result was to double down on unfounded claims of ballot rigging, posting on his Truth Social platform that the Democrat’s victory was a “scam” and the result of “voter fraud.”

Trump is set to declare his 2024 White House bid on Tuesday — an announcement he had planned as a triumphant follow-on to an expected crushing election victory by the party he still dominates.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn before departing from the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on Oct. 22, 2018.(Xinhua/Ting Shen/IANS)

The underwhelming outcome has prompted a bout of internal finger-pointing, with targets including Trump, the party leaders, and the campaign messaging.

US media on Saturday cited a letter circulated by three Republican senators calling for the postponement of party leadership elections currently scheduled for the middle of next week.

“We are all disappointed that a Red Wave failed to materialize, and there are multiple reasons it did not,” the letter said.

“We need to have serious discussions within our conference as to why and what we can do to improve our chances in 2024,” it added.

Some suggest Trump’s early entry into the presidential race is designed to fend off possible criminal charges arising from multiple investigations into the final weeks of his presidency as well as his business affairs.

On Friday, Trump’s lawyers challenged a subpoena from the Congressional committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol by his supporters.

The subpoena sought to have Trump questioned under oath next week but the lawyers filed a lawsuit arguing he enjoyed “absolute immunity” as a former president from being compelled to testify before Congress.

The subpoena is “invalid, unlawful, and unenforceable,” the lawsuit said.

Democratic control of the Senate ensures a smoother process for Biden’s Cabinet appointments and judicial picks, including those for potential Supreme Court openings. The party will also keep control over committees and have the power to conduct investigations or oversight of the Biden administration, and will be able to reject legislation sent over by the House if the GOP wins that chamber.

In Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Biden said of the election results: “I feel good. I’m looking forward to the next couple of years.”

He said winning a 51st seat from the Georgia runoff would be important and allow Democrats to boost their standing on Senate committees.

“It’s just simply better,” Biden said. “The bigger the number, the better.”

If Democrats manage to pull off a win in the House, it would mean full control of Congress for Democrats — and another chance to advance Biden priorities, which he has said include codifying abortion rights. The party still lacks the 60 votes in the Senate needed to move many kinds of major legislative changes.

Biden, who called to congratulate Cortez Masto, said he was still hopeful that Democrats could hold the House.

“It’s a stretch,” he acknowledged. “Everything has to fall our way.”

The Senate fight had hinged on a handful of deeply contested seats. Both parties spent tens of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and Georgia, the top battlegrounds where Democrats had hoped that Republicans’ decision to nominate untested candidates — many backed by former President Donald Trump — would help them defy national headwinds.

Democrats scored a big win in Pennsylvania, where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman defeated celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz, who was endorsed by Trump, to pick up a seat currently held by a Republican. Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly won reelection by about 5 percentage points.

A closely divided swing state, Nevada is one of the most racially diverse in the nation, a working-class state whose residents have been especially hard-hit by inflation and other economic turmoil. Roughly three-fourths of Nevada voters said the country is headed in the wrong direction, and about half called the economy the most important issue facing the country, according to AP VoteCast, a survey of 2,100 of the state’s voters.

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