Trump gives Republicans a boost in Congress
Republicans rode the conservative wave that carried Donald Trump into office, and retained majorities in both the Senate and the House this week—giving the GOP full control of Capitol Hill when Trump is sworn in on Jan. 20. In the Senate, Republicans had to defend 24 seats, compared with the Democrats’ 10, and were set to lose control of the upper chamber if they suffered five battleground defeats. But Democrats secured just two pickups: in Illinois, where Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth defeated Republican Sen. Mark Kirk, and in New Hampshire, where Gov. Maggie Hassan beat GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte by a razor-thin margin. Sens. Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Richard Burr fended off Democratic challengers in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, respectively. Arizona Sen. John McCain and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—both of whom wavered on Trump—won easy victories, giving the GOP at least a 51-48 majority.
In the House, Democrats made a net gain of just five seats, with a handful of races outstanding, narrowing the Republican majority to a still-comfortable 239-193. The “lame-duck” Congress was due to begin holding leadership elections next week—including a vote over the future of House Speaker Paul Ryan, who angered Trump by refusing to fully endorse the presidential nominee. “Trump seems magnanimous right now,” one Republican aide said of Ryan’s future. “We shall see.”
What the columnists said
A few weeks ago, “Democrats believed they had the perfect mix” to take the Senate, said Eric Bradner in CNN.com. The polls gave them “near-locks” in blue states, “top-grade recruits in red states,” and the firm belief that the tanking Trump campaign would “drag down Republican incumbents.” How wrong they were. Instead, the flood of new Republican voters brought out by Trump helped put the GOP in a position to dominate Washington for years to come. Indeed, Republican senators will “head into the 2018 midterms with a map so favorable that a filibuster-proof, 60-seat supermajority is within reach.”
“So what happens now?” said Pat Garofalo in USNews.com. “First, expect quite the fight over the currently open Supreme Court seat” as Republicans move quickly to find a conservative replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia. There will also be bitter fights over Obamacare, which Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace, and the looming spending bill. “Buckle up.”
But Republicans won’t just “lie down for President Trump,” said Andrew Desiderio in TheDailyBeast.com. Despite his victory, the Senate is still “swimming with anti-Trump senators” like Ben Sasse and Mike Lee, and there are hawks and pro–free trade ideologues in both chambers. It’ll be an interesting time for the GOP, said Eliana Johnson in NationalReview.com. Republicans across the board— “renegades and moderates, new faces and old”—have Trump’s populist movement to thank for their unexpected resurgence. But in Washington, Republican members of Congress will “have to grapple with the transformation” of their party. Somehow, “the ideologues and the populists will have to find a way to work together.”