US midterms: Democrats take House, Republicans hold on to Senate in setback for Donald Trump
- Democrats were riding to victory with strong support from women turned off by Trump’s bullying style and among suburban voters
- Democrats will now head committees that can investigate the president’s tax returns, and links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia
Donald Trump faced greater restraints on his presidency after the Democrats won control of the US House of Representatives and pledged to hold the Republicans accountable after a tumultuous two years in the White House.
Trump and his fellow Republicans expanded their control of the US Senate in Tuesday’s midterm elections, following a divisive campaign marked by fierce clashes over race and immigration.
But they lost their majority in the House, a setback for the president after a campaign that became a referendum on his leadership.
A defiant Trump called the result a “big win”.
With some races still undecided, Democrats were headed for a gain of more than 30 seats, beyond the 23 they needed to claim their first majority in the 435-member House in eight years.
A Senate majority would have allowed Democrats to apply even firmer brakes on Trump’s policy agenda and given them the ability to block any future Supreme Court nominees.
However, the party will now head House committees that can investigate the president’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and links between his 2016 election campaign and Russia.
The Democrats could also force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package, or carry out his hardline policies on trade.
“Today is more than about Democrats and Republicans, it’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration,“ Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, told supporters at victory party.
Trump cast the elections in terms of Republicans who had hewed closely to him.
In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats. If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
“Those that worked with me in this incredible Midterm Election, embracing certain policies and principles, did very well. Those that did not, say goodbye!” he wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. “Yesterday was such a very Big Win, and all under the pressure of a Nasty and Hostile Media!”
Several firm Trump supporters, including Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis, won their races.
Trump, 72, had hardened his rhetoric in recent weeks on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters. He threw himself into the campaign, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed through Mexico to the US border and condemnations of liberal American “mobs” he says oppose him.
He also warned Democrats against using their new majority in the House to investigate his administration. He said in a tweet on Wednesday that if they do, the Republican-controlled Senate may investigate Democrats. Trump said that if the Democrats plan to “waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level,” then Republicans “will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level.”
He said that “two can play that game!”
It wasn’t clear what leaks he was referring to.
A Democrat-controlled House will hamper Trump’s pro-business agenda and could lead to uncertainty about his administration, but corporate tax cuts and deregulation measures that have played a large hand in the US stock market’s rally since the 2016 election are likely to remain untouched.
“With the Democrats taking over the House we will now have to see what gridlock in Congress means for policy. As for the market impact, a split Congress has historically been bullish for equities and we expect to see the same pattern again,” said Torsten Slok, Chief International Economist of Deutsche Bank.
Foreign policy has been an area that Trump has approached in a very personal way, sometimes antagonising allies such as Canada while making what critics see as unduly warm overtures to traditional rivals or foes.
Democrats will use their new majority to reverse what they see as a hands-off approach by Republicans toward Trump’s foreign policy, and push for tougher dealings with Russia, Saudi Arabia and North Korea.
Every seat in the House was up for grabs on Tuesday. The Republicans had an advantage in Senate races because elections were held for only 35 seats in the 100-member chamber and many of them were in states that often lean Republican.
The Democratic gains were fuelled by women, young and Hispanic voters, a Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll found. Fifty-five per cent of women said they backed a Democrat for the House this year, compared to 49 per cent in the 2014 midterm congressional election.
A record number of women ran for office this election, many of them Democrats. There were 237 women on ballots for House seats and at least 95 had won their races as of early Wednesday morning, shattering the previous record of 84 women in the House, according to the Centre for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
The party picked up seats across the map but some of the campaign’s biggest Democratic stars lost.
Liberal Beto O’Rourke’s underdog Senate campaign fell short in conservative Texas against Republican Ted Cruz. Andrew Gillum lost to Republican DeSantis in his quest to become Florida’s first black governor.