Republicans retain control of Senate and House of Representatives

Party now able to fill vacancy on supreme court vacant since death of Antonin Scalia

US senator Roy Blunt  greets newly elected Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley prior to speaking to supporters after winning his campaign for Missouri senator. Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images

US senator Roy Blunt greets newly elected Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley prior to speaking to supporters after winning his campaign for Missouri senator. Photograph: Michael B Thomas/Getty Images

 

Republicans retained their six-year control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, with their losses in the House running to less than a third of the 32 which would have seen them lose control.

The Democratic Senate defeats in Florida, Pennsylvania and Indiana, with one gain in Illinois, mean the institutional gridlock that has bogged down US legislative decision-making for years may have been broken – a Republican-controlled White House will be able to see its legislative programme passed. In the White House there will be someone willing to sign congressional Bills.

Just as significantly, Republicans will now be able to fill the 238-day vacancy on the supreme court vacant since the death of Antonin Scalia in February, which has deprived conservatives of their majority on the court. That restored majority may be copper-fastened for more than a generation as three of the court’s older members are now in or about 80 and likely to retire soon. It could see a major roll-back of social policy advances in areas like abortion and marriage equality.

One-third (34) of the 100 seats in the Senate were up for election – the Republicans this year were defending 24 seats; the Democrats 10. The Republican Party currently controls it 54-46 (including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats). Democrats needed to win at least five seats to win back the majority if Donald Trump was elected – a 52-48 Republican majority was being predicted early this morning.

Narrowly hung on

Among competitive races, only the New Hampshire Senate race remains too close to call. The Louisiana Senate race will go to a December run-off, but Republicans are expected to easily hold that seat.

Democrats narrowly hung on in Nevada, which was their rivals’ only real opportunity for a gain. Wisconsin saw Republican senator Ron Johnson win re-election in a state most of his party wrote off months ago. He defeated Democratic senator Russ Feingold again in a rematch of their 2010 contest.

Mr Trump will not have it all his own way legislatively, however. His fractious relationship with the party’s leadership during the campaign may see some of its members refuse to march in lockstep with their new president, although the younger Tea Party-aligned members who now dominate the party in both houses will be singing off the same hymn sheet on many of Mr Trump’s key campaign promises. Not least, Irish politicians will note with particular regret, on immigration reform.

Republicans will also find, however, that the Senate procedural filibuster which they have used so devastatingly against Democrats to delay or obstruct Obama proposals will now be turned on them. Effectively 60 votes are required out of 100 to get measures through, although we may now see Republican moves to abolish it.

Republicans currently control the US House of Representatives with their largest majority in almost a century – 247 seats to the Democrats’ 188. 218 seats were needed for control of the House, which means the Democratic Party needed to hold all of their seats, and win another 32. At most it was clear this morning they will win 10 seats.

Unlike the Senate, all the House seats were up for re-election. So far Democrats have just seven net gains – two in Florida that Democrats were expecting to win because of court-ordered redistricting. There are currently about 10 seats in the balance, with most going Republican.