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Democrats Regain Majority In The House of Representatives This U.S. Midterm Election

CNN's exit poll showed 80 percent of voters said it was important for more women to be elected.

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Adrian Avella and Mazeda Uddin react during the midterm election night party of Democratic congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York City. VOA

Democrats retook the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterm elections while Republicans preserved control of the Senate, creating a divided Congress that will put up roadblocks to President Donald Trump’s legislative agenda in the coming two years.

The result, which was expected, also serves as at least a partial rebuke of Trump, who had held numerous rallies across the country in support of Republican candidates and repeatedly insisted the election was essentially a referendum on his presidency.

“Today is more about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about restoring constitutional checks and balances to the Trump administration,” said Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California in a victory speech at Democratic party headquarters in Washington.

With control of the House for the first time in eight years, Democrats can do more than just obstruct Trump’s legislative priorities. They will also be able to go on the attack, taking leadership of crucial House committees that have strong investigatory powers. Some Democrats have suggested they will demand to see the president’s tax returns and investigate his personal finances and business interests, as well as his 2016 presidential election campaign’s ties to Russia.

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U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges supporters as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. VOA

“It is a critical check on Trump,” says University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato. “Big legislation with an ideological tint, left or right, won’t pass for the next two years. Democrats now have the power of subpoena so Trump and his administration can expect to be investigated rather than protected by the House.”

But by retaining control of the Senate, Republicans will preserve the ability to confirm Trump’s judicial and other nominees. The Republican-led Senate also could prevent Congress from removing Trump from office, if the Democratic-controlled House decides to move forward with impeachment proceedings, as some have hinted.

‘Blue wave’ in House

Though votes are still being counted, Democrats are projected to pick up over 30 seats in the House, a little more than the 23 votes they needed to claim the majority. That is consistent with many pre-election polls and analysis that predicted a “blue wave,” a major Democratic victory.

The Democratic victory drew in large part on a coalition of minority voters, young people and those in urban and suburban swing districts, many of whom were upset over Trump’s style of leadership and harsh language about immigrants and minorities.

“The demographic crisis has finally hit,” says Evan Siegfried, a Republican analyst. “And in a way that is brutal and is decimating the Republican Party.”

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Democrat Jennifer Wexton speaks at her election night party after defeating Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-Va., Nov. 6, 2018, in Dulles, Virginia. VOA

That trend was evident in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, where Jennifer Wexton, a lawyer and state senator, defeated the Republican incumbent, Representative Barbara Comstock.

In New Jersey, Democrat Mikie Sherrill, a former Navy pilot and political novice, defeated Republican Jay Webber, winning a seat that had been held by Republicans for over three decades.

Though polls had suggested healthcare and the economy were main issues for voters, Trump was never far from voters’ minds.

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Voters line up to vote at a polling place in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. VOA

A CNN national exit poll suggested 55 percent of voters disapprove of Trump’s performance while 44 percent approve of it. Moreover, 56 percent of those surveyed believe the country is on the wrong track and only 41 percent said it was on the right track.

Republicans keep Senate

However, Republicans are expected to increase their 51 to 49 seat hold on the Senate by three seats.

The White House said early Wednesday that Trump called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “to congratulate him on the historic Senate gains.” Trump also spoke with outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is retiring in January, as well as Pelosi.

Democrats’ Senate chances were dealt a major blow in Indiana, where Republican businessman Mike Braun pulled off an upset win against incumbent Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. In Tennessee, Democrat Phil Bredesen, the state’s ex-governor, lost to Republican Marsha Blackburn to fill the seat of retiring Sen. Bob Corker. Blackburn will become Tennessee’s first female senator. And in Missouri, two-term Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill was defeated by state Attorney General Josh Hawley.

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Democratic Texas U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Beto O’Rourke embraces his wife Amy as he concedes to Senator Ted Cruz at his midterm election night party in El Paso, Texas. VOA

In one of the closest watched races in the country, Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who just months ago was a relatively unknown congressman from El Paso, narrowly lost to Republican Senator Ted Cruz. Still, O’Rourke, an unabashed progressive lawmaker with a gift for fundraising, is widely considered to be a prominent Democratic presidential contender in 2020.

Women’s role

Women also played a major role in the election.

A record 237 women ran in House races and 23 in Senate races across the country, including 185 Democrats and 52 Republicans. Their wins are likely to boost the percentage of women in Congress beyond 20 percent for the first time. Many stepped up as candidates in the last two years, energized by reports of Trump’s behavior toward women, the rise of the #MeToo movement that has publicized the pervasiveness of sexual assault, and Republican policy platforms on issues including the right to abortion.

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Democratic U.S. congressional candidate Rashida Tlaib celebrates with her mother at her midterm election night party in Detroit, Michigan. VOA

Christopher Borick, a political science professor and director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, says the role women played in this election lived up to expectations.

“We’re seeing a vast increase in the percentage of women that will be within in the House of Representatives. I’ll give you an example in Pennsylvania, which is kind of the one of the most striking scenes. Before this election we had zero, not one member of an 18-seat congressional delegation that was a woman. Tonight, just in suburban Philadelphia, in the Lehigh Valley where I’m speaking from, four women won in a really tight area,” Borick said.

Also Read: Donald Trump Key Force In Driving The MIdterms Election

Winners included the first two Muslim women in Congress, Ilhan Omar from Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib from Michigan, and the first Native American woman, Sharice Davids from Kansas. First-time female congressional candidates also won in states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. The surge reflects the preferences of female voters, who have also been motivated by Trump’s reputation with women and by candidates who have increasingly spoken on their particular issues as parents and employees.

CNN’s exit poll showed 80 percent of voters said it was important for more women to be elected. (VOA)

Next Story

“Let it Come Out, Let the People See,” Trump on Mueller Report

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense

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U.S. President Donald Trump waves as he arrives at Akron-Canton airport in Canton, Ohio, March 20, 2019. VOA

Democratic congressional leaders have, for the time being, ruled out pursuing impeachment proceedings against President Donald Trump. That could all change depending on what is in the eagerly awaited report on the Russia investigation being prepared by special counsel Robert Mueller.

On his way to Ohio Wednesday, Trump told reporters outside the White House that the public should have access to the Mueller report.

“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.”

The decision by Democratic congressional leaders to pass on impeachment seems to be mindful of recent history, especially the Republican-led impeachment effort against President Bill Clinton in 1998.

In announcing her opposition to impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said simply that Trump “wasn’t worth it.”

Pelosi is sticking to her position despite pressure from liberal activists.

“Impeachment is a divisive issue in our country, and let us see what the facts are, what the law is, and what the behavior is of the president,” Pelosi recently told reporters at the Capitol.​

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“Let it come out. Let the people see,” Trump said. “Let’s see whether or not it is legit.” VOA

Trump: ‘Great job’

For President Trump, the idea of impeachment is, not surprisingly, a non-starter.

“Well, you can’t impeach somebody that is doing a great job. That is the way I view it,” Trump said when asked about the issue in January.

Late last year, Trump told Reuters that he was not concerned about impeachment.

“I think that the people would revolt if that happened,” he said.

Trump’s Republican allies in Congress are also poised to leap to his defense.

“I don’t think it is good for the country,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters last week. “The Democrats made a decision (to want to impeach) on the day President Trump one.”

Some Democrats want to keep pushing, including former Hillary Clinton senior adviser Philippe Reines. Reines wrote recently in the New York Times that Democrats would be doing a “civic duty” to pursue impeachment.

“There is a mounting political cost to not impeaching Mr. Trump,” Reines wrote last week. “He will hail it as exoneration and he will go into the 2020 campaign under the banner, ‘I Told You So.’”​

Polls say no

Recent polls show most voters do not favor impeachment at this time. A Quinnipiac University poll earlier this month found that 59 percent of those surveyed do not think House Democrats should initiate impeachment proceedings against the president, while 35 percent support the idea.

Given that the 2020 election cycle is underway, Democrats may prefer to have the voters try to oust Trump during next year’s election, according to George Washington University analyst Matt Dallek.

“By the time impeachment proceedings were even to ramp up, you are talking about the end of 2019 or early 2020,” Dallek told VOA this week. “That creates its own complication because there is another remedy for removing a president and it is called the election.”

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FILE – Then-first lady Hillary Clinton watches her husband, President Bill Clinton, pause as he thanks those Democratic members of the House of Representatives who voted against his impeachment, Dec. 19, 1998. VOA

Political risk

Democrats clearly recall what happened to Bill Clinton in 1998. Clinton lied about and tried to cover up his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky, which led to his impeachment by the House. Clinton remained in office after he was acquitted in a trial in the Senate.

Historically, impeachment has been a rare event. Clinton was only the second president impeached by the House. Andrew Johnson was the first back in 1868. Johnson avoided removal by a single vote in the Senate.

Presidential impeachments have been rare and that is by design, according to University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato.

“They (the founders) did not want presidents impeached and convicted and thrown out of office for minor offenses. They expected Congress to do it only in extreme circumstances.”

Republicans paid a price for the Clinton impeachment, losing five House seats in the 1998 midterm elections. And Sabato said that lesson could have resonance for Democrats today as they mull impeaching Trump.

“Given the fact that the Republicans took a wounded Bill Clinton and made him almost invulnerable for the rest of his term, it should serve as a warning to Democrats,” he said.

Experts also note that the damage to Republicans from the Clinton impeachment was not long-lasting. George W. Bush narrowly beat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election, and the political fallout from Clinton’s scandal may have cost Gore the presidency.

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., center, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 6, 2019. VOA

Senate obstacle

The biggest obstacle facing any impeachment effort of Trump is the Republican-controlled Senate. Democrats would have to bring over at least 20 Republican senators in any impeachment trial in order to get a conviction and remove the president from office.

A vote to impeach a president only requires a majority vote in the House, now controlled by Democrats. But in a Senate trial, it would take 67 of 100 senators to vote for conviction in order to remove the president from office, and Democrats concede that is not a possibility at the moment.

“It has less than zero chance of passing the Senate,” Sabato said. “Why would you go through all this in the House of Representatives, torpedo your entire agenda to impeach Trump in order to send it to the Senate to have him exonerated and not convicted?”

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FILE – President Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat Nixon, stand together in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Aug. 9, 1974. VOA

Nixon case

President Richard Nixon was not impeached over the Watergate scandal in 1974, but the process was well underway. The House began impeachment proceedings through the House Judiciary Committee and was preparing to move Articles of Impeachment to the House floor when Nixon decided to resign.

Several Republican senators including Barry Goldwater went to the White House and made it clear to Nixon that he had lost Republican support and would not survive an impeachment trial in the Senate.

Some analysts predict that President Trump could face renewed calls for his ouster depending on the findings of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

“I think if the Mueller report indicates some serious wrongdoing by the president and his campaign, it really empowers Democrats to begin deliberating how to move forward with impeachment proceedings,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak.

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But other experts caution that it would have to be something quite serious for Republicans to even consider abandoning the president.

Given the lack of bipartisan support for impeachment at the moment, it does seem more likely that Trump will face the voters again in 2020 before he has to contend with a Democratic-led impeachment inquiry in the House. (VOA)