Control of lower chamber of Congress will allow Democrats to block much of Trump’s agenda and investigate his administration
Democrats have regained control of the House of Representatives, a momentous win in the midterm elections that will enable the party to block much of Donald Trump’s agenda and bombard the president with investigations.
As results came in from across the country overnight, the midterms were a tale of two chambers: the Democrats won key House congressional races while Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate.
The election served as a referendum on Trump’s America, and whether Republicans should remain in absolute power in Washington.
Democrats needed to flip 23 seats to take control of the House of Representatives, and early on Wednesday morning hit the 218 needed to win back the chamber from Republicans, breaking one-party rule in Congress after eight years.
Speaking in Washington, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi said the party would use its newly won majority to pursue a bipartisan agenda for a country. Pelosi said Americans have all “had enough of division”.
“Thanks to you tomorrow will be a new day in America,” she said.
Earlier in the evening, the White House spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, sought to downplay Democratic gains, saying: “Maybe you get a ripple, but I certainly don’t think that there’s a blue wave.”
But Democrats racked up upsets across the country.
Incumbent Randy Hultgren lost a traditionally Republican suburban districtto Lauren Underwood, a 31-year-old African American nurse who ran a campaign focused on healthcare. Military veteran Max Rose pulled off an unexpected win in a conservative district on Staten Island in New York, and the deep red state of Oklahoma elected Democrat Kendra Horn to a district centered around Oklahoma City.
Elsewhere, Democrats Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland made history by becoming the first Native American women elected to Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York became the first woman in her 20s to win a seat and was joined by 29-year-old Abby Finkenauer in Iowa.
It was a record year for women, with at least 90 winning their elections on Tuesday. The majority of them were Democrats, and at least 28 of them were elected to the House for the first time. Voters also sent Congress its first two Muslim women – Rashida Tlaib in Michigan and Ilhan Omar in Minnesota.
However, Republicans extended their control of the Senate, paving the way for a divided Congress.
In one of the most closely watched races, the Republican Texas senator Ted Cruz fended off an unexpectedly tough challenge from Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who inspired young voters and raised an unprecedented amount of money. O’Rourke mounted the most promising attempt by a Democrat to win a statewide office in Texas in decades, but in the end fell just short of Cruz, who was elected in 2012 on a tea party wave and ran unsuccessfully for president in 2016.
The elections carry significant ramifications for what remains of Trump’s first term.
With a majority in the House, Democrats are expected to launch a flurry of investigations into the president and his administration. The White House’s legal team is reportedly bracing for potential inquiries that include whether Trump obstructed justice in the Russia investigation, the misuse of taxpayer dollars by several cabinet officials, and hush money paid to women to keep silent about their alleged affairs with Trump before he was elected president.
The Democratic victory would also stonewall much of Trump’s agenda. Republicans had vowed to pursue further tax cuts and changes to popular government programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid and social security. They also pledged to repeal and replace Barack Obama’s healthcare law, a years-long quest that will assuredly fail with Democrats now holding one of the chambers.
The increased Republican majority in the Senate, however, will make it easier for Trump to continue to appoint judges and remake the nation’s judiciary branch in a more conservative mold.
Four Democratic incumbents lost in the Senate. Three-term incumbent Bill Nelson of Florida lost a tight race to the state’s governor Rick Scott, while two-term Democrat Claire McCaskill lost her re-election bid in Missouri.
Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – two Democrats who won in deep red states with Obama at the top of the ticket in 2012 – also lost their re-election bids. All four voted against the controversial confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court.
In Tennessee, the Republican congresswoman Marsha Blackburn emerged victorious in a contest that drew national attention after pop star Taylor Swift endorsed the Democratic candidate, Phil Bredesen.
Democrats had been defending 10 Senate seats in states that Trump largely won by double digits two years ago, rendering the battle to win back the upper chamber of Congress an uphill struggle that was ultimately lost.
Healthcare and immigration were the top issues on voters’ minds as they cast their ballots, according to an exit poll survey conducted by the Associated Press, and 64% of those surveyed said Trump was a factor in their voting choice.
Higher than usual turnout was reported across the country, where 36 governor’s contests reinforced the ramifications of what former president Barack Obama dubbed as perhaps “the most important election of our lifetimes”.
Democrats took several Republican-held governor’s offices, including pulling off a major upset when Tony Evers defeated Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, denying the polarizing Republican and one-time presidential candidate a third term. In Kansas, voters rejected Republican Kris Kobach, a hardline immigration activist who cozied up to Trump, in favor of Democrat Laura Kelly.
But the loss of Andrew Gillum in Florida marked a major disappointment for progressives. His Republican opponent, Ron DeSantis, was a close Trump ally who drew criticism for running what many saw as a racially divisive campaign against the state’s first black major-party candidate for governor.
Gillum, the mayor of Florida’s state capital Tallahassee and a rising star in the Democratic Party, vowed in his concession speech to remain “on the front lines”.
“We still have to be willing to show up every single day and demand our seat at the table,” an emotional Gillum told supporters.
The fate of Georgia’s governor’s race remained unclear in the early hours of Wednesday, as Democrat Stacey Abrams, who was trailing Republican Brian Kemp by less than three percentage points, said she would not concede.
“I promise you tonight, we are going to make sure every single vote is counted,” said Abrams, who is vying to be the nation’s first black woman governor. Georgia’s voters experienced some of the biggest disruptions and longest waits of the election.
“Democracy only works when we work for it, when we fight for it, when we demand it.”
Democrats have sought to cast the 2018 midterms as a referendum on Trump, whose tenure in the White House has left Americans sharply polarized and has been defined by chaos, tribalism and the shattering of norms.
While crisscrossing the country on behalf of Republican candidates, Trump’s closing argument ahead of the election largely consisted of stoking fears around a caravan of migrants fleeing violence and poverty in Central Americaand headed toward the US-Mexico border. The president also repeatedly declared that Democrats, if elected, would lead a “socialist takeover” of America.
Although a number of Democratic heavyweights hit the trail to stump on behalf of candidates, including Obama, the narrative was still dominated by Trump and his freewheeling rhetoric.
As he said at a rally on Indiana on Monday: “The midterm elections used to be, like, boring.
“Who ever heard of midterms? Now it’s, like, the hottest thing.”