November 05, 2010

GOP Takes Over U.S. House, Captures Six Senate Seats in Midterm Elections

In the U.S. House, Republicans have netted 60 seats so far, with 8 Democratic districts too close to call. According to The Washington Post, most projections put the total GOP gain in the mid-60s, although several of the uncalled contests are almost certainly headed for recounts. GOP candidates defeated not only Democratic incumbents who won their seats in 2006 or 2008, but also long-serving incumbents such as Reps. John Spratt (S.C.), Ike Skelton (Mo.), Rick Boucher (Va.) and Jim Oberstar (Minn.). Historically, the Republican gains mark the biggest midterm election seat swap since 1938, when Democrats lost 71 House seats.  Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is set to become the next Speaker of the House.

In the Senate, Republicans made solid gains but will remain in the minority when the 112th Congress convenes. The GOP gained six seats — Illinois, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Arkansas, Indiana and Wisconsin — on Tuesday night, with a race in Alaska still not called. West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (D) won the seat of the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D) claimed the seat of retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D). The timing of California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D) victory ensured Democrats would retain the majority. Democrats also won a major symbolic victory in Nevada as Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid (D) defeated former state assemblywoman Sharron Angle (R). Rep. Mark Kirk (R) and former Rep. Pat Toomey (R) emerged victorious in very close contests for the Senate seats in Illinois and Pennsylvania, respectively.  Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and Sen. Patty Murray (D) won close races in Colorado and Washington.

In governors’ races, Republicans have netted nine seats with three races not yet called. Republicans claimed pickups in big population states like Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, and will keep Florida in its grasp. Democrats got good news in California and Hawaii, where they picked off seats currently held by Republicans. In the uncalled races, Democrats hold narrow edges in all three: Minnesota, Vermont, and Connecticut. Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures — the most in the modern era. Republicans now hold the redistricting “trifecta” — both chambers of the state legislature and the governorship — in 15 states. They also control the Nebraska governorship and the unicameral legislature. In North Carolina, Republicans hold both chambers of the state legislature, and the Democratic governor does not have veto power over redistricting proposals that will follow the 2010 Census. Democrats hold the redistricting “trifecta” in eight states. For more on State House elections, go to Florida also passed a ballot measure that would hand over the redistricting process to a nonpartisan commission – a major victory for the Florida Alliance, which worked hard on the legislation.

Rich Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, pointed to union voters as the firewall in crucial Senate victories in Nevada, California and West Virginia.  With an extraordinary ground campaign, union members voted 64 percent – 36 percent for union-endorsed working family candidates in the House. They voted for the re-election of Sen. Harry Reid by a 40 point margin, for Gov. Joe Manchin by a 24 point margin and for Sen. Barbara Boxer by a 44 point margin. “Thank you to all the Alliance leaders, members, volunteers, and staff who contributed so much time and energy to the 2010 midterm elections,” said Edward F. Coyle, Executive Director of the Alliance.  “You likely saved us from suffering a complete disaster on Tuesday night.”

How Seniors Voted

The senior vote represented 23% of all votes for seats in the House of Representatives.  Based upon CNN exit polls, 38% of seniors voted Democratic and 59% voted Republican. CNN exit polls also indicated a stronger showing for the Tea Party among older voters, with 47% of those 60 and older saying they support the Tea Party and only 26% of voters ages 18 to 29 saying they do.

According to an AFL-CIO survey conducted Tuesday night by Hart Research Associates in the top 100 swing congressional districts in the country (as rated by Cook’s Political Report), voters overall strongly oppose the key economic policies embraced by Republican candidates.  The survey shows that voters overwhelmingly reject privatizing Social Security, raising the Social Security retirement age, and allowing tax cuts to continue for those making over $250,000 a year.  “It appears that many seniors voted for politicians who are unlikely to protect programs they hold dear,” said Ruben Burks, Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. The Faith and Freedom Coalition, in conjunction with the Republican Party, also conducted an election night survey of voters. Among the Social Security and Medicare findings, 13% of voters identified Social Security and Medicare as their most important voting issue.  Nineteen percent identified these among their top two issues. Of those in the 19% segment, 59% voted Democratic and 40% voted Republican. Here is a link to the full survey report:

Social Security Privatizer Likely to Lead Key House Panel

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) will likely become the next chairman of the House Budget Committee. Rep. Ryan’s Roadmap proposes lower Social Security benefits for wealthy retirees and a shift toward private accounts, as well as the replacement of Medicare and Medicaid with vouchers and state block grants. “On Tuesday night, 78 elected officials who support Social Security privatization were sent back to either the House or the Senate,” said Barbara J. Easterling, President of the Alliance, citing a list from  “And this doesn’t even include all the incoming freshmen whose political consultants told them to just lay low on Social Security during the campaign.  Unfortunately, the idea of privatization is alive and well on Capitol Hill.”

Republicans Expected to Pursue Repeal of Health Care Law

Many Republicans see their success as a mandate to repeal the health care reforms put in place under the Obama Administration.  “I hope that we’re able to put a repeal bill on the floor right away because that’s what the American people want,” Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told CBS news.  The Democrats’ control of the Senate, however, ensures that Congress cannot easily repeal the law.

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