Karen Handel victory in Georgia feted by Republicans

Republicans pledge to push through vote on revised healthcare plan as early as next week

Republican Karen Handel makes  a heart sign for her supporters ahead of her election victory in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

Republican Karen Handel makes a heart sign for her supporters ahead of her election victory in Atlanta, Georgia. Photograph: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

 

Republicans seized on the victory of Karen Handel in a special election in Georgia on Tuesday night, vowing to push through a vote on a revised healthcare plan as early as next week.

Ms Handel comfortably won the seat vacated by health and human services secretary Tom Price in the sixth congressional district of Georgia, beating Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff.

As expected, Republicans also won a special election in the fifth congressional district of South Carolina held to fill the seat vacated by budget director Mick Mulvaney.

The Georgia victory was an important win for the Republican party, following Mr Ossoff’s better-than-expected performance in the first-round election last month, but has left Democrats frustrated after a record-breaking funding drive failed to generate a win.

President Donald Trump lauded Ms Handel’s victory on Twitter as the results were announced shortly before midnight. “Congratulations to Karen Handel on her big win in Georgia 6th. Fantastic job, we are all very proud of you!” In a later tweet, he urged Democrats to “get together” with Republicans on healthcare, tax cuts and security. “Obstruction doesn’t work!” he said.

Replacing Obamacare

The Republican victory – the fourth special election won by the party this year – has generated renewed momentum for the party’s long-awaited plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, with Senate Republicans due to unveil their own proposal for the American Health Care Act on Thursday. A series of votes may be held next week in Congress before representatives break for the July 4th recess.

Senate Republicans have been meeting behind closed doors to try and seek agreement on repealing sections of the Affordable Care Act, Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reform which became known as Obamacare. The House of Representatives voted and passed their proposal last month.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has said this week that the Senate plan would be “different” than the House plan, which has been criticised by Democrats as providing tax cuts for the rich and cutting essential medical programmes.

Democrats have also criticised Republicans for devising their plan behind closed doors and without congressional scrutiny.

A study by the Congressional Budget Office has claimed that 23 million Americans may lose their healthcare under the House plan.

Russian interference

As President Trump headed to Iowa on Wednesday for a “Make America Great Again” rally, questions about Russian interference in the US election continued to be raised on Capitol Hill.

Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, former homeland security chief Jeh Johnson defended the decision of the Obama administration not to release details of alleged meddling by Russia in the US election until after the November election. “We have to carefully consider whether declassifying the information compromises sources and methods,” Mr Johnson said. “There was an ongoing election. Many would criticise us for perhaps taking sides in the election. So that had to be carefully considered.”

Separately, a senior Department of Homeland Security official, Jeanette Manfra, told the Senate on Wednesday that Russian hackers targeted 21 US states during last year’s election.

However she said that there was no evidence to suggest actual vote ballots were altered by the interference.