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Republicans storm Senate as voters punish Obama

world Updated: Nov 06, 2014 02:01 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
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Republicans took the US Senate and retained control of the House with a bigger majority on Tuesday night, riding a wave of discontent with President Barack Obama’s policies.

The grand old party picked up seven extra seats, one more than they needed to take the upper chamber, and bolstered their control of the House by adding 13 more seats.

US Congress is all red now – the colour of the Republican Party– setting the stage for what is likely to be an acrimonious two years left of the Democratic president’s term.

Obama was not on the ballot but his policies were, and Republicans made sure midterm elections 2014 was a vote on him, with his popularity ratings stuck in the 40s.

From New Delhi’s point of view, a Republican Congress changes nothing. “There is bipartisan support for India in the US,” said a source, adding, “We have worked with both parties.”

Of the five Indian Americans running the US federal chambers, only one had met with success till the filing of this report — South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, who easily won.

Neel Kashkari, the Republican who ran for California governorship, lost. So did Manan Trivedi.

Ami Bera — the only India American in US Congress — and Ro Khanna, both in California, remained locked in contests that were said to be too close to call.

There were some successes for the community in state contests — Kamla Harris won another term as California attorney general and Maryland majority leader Kumar Barve.

But the big battle for the 2014 midterm elections was for the Senate, which Republicans were projected to win, and which Democrats were determined to prevent.

Republicans prevailed, and handily in the end, raising questions about how Washington DC will work now — a Democratic White House and Republican Congress.

Unlike in India, where the central cabinet comes from the party in majority in Lok Sabha, in the US the administration and the House of Representatives can be controlled by different parties.

And like Rajya Sabha, the Senate is not as powerful as the House, but it must confirm all presidential nominations — and that gives it tremendous leverage over the administration.

Democrats control the White House and the Senate now, while Republicans have the House. Starting next January, Republicans will have control of both chambers of Congress.

Things are expected to get tough for Obama. He is bound to get a lot of pushback on nominations that need Senate’s confirmation — both of judges and nominees to his administration.

Expect more investigations and hearings — such as the Benghazi hearings, say experts – and more legislations landing on the president’s desk, for him to veto or approve.

But it’s not going to be all bad. Some presidents are known to have turned their attention to foreign policy after a bad midterm, which has been the lot of most presidents.

John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center said he believes the president and Congress could work together on some issues — trade, tax reform and foreign policy, for instance.