Republicans have emerged from Tuesday’s midterm elections with control of Congress for the first time in eight years by winning key Senate seats and strengthening their majority in the House. Republican candidates won at least 10 of the day’s 13 closely contested Senate races, giving the party control of the Senate for the first time since 2007. Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell is expected to become the next Senate majority leader after defeating Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes in one of the nation’s highest-profile contests. McConnell has played a leading role in fighting campaign finance reform and supporting the Citizens United decision, which opened the floodgates to unlimited election spending. The $4 billion price tag made this election the most expensive midterm in history. We look at the Kentucky race and what to expect out of a McConnell-led Senate with Phillip Bailey, a freelance journalist in Louisville.
With their newfound control of both houses of Congress, the Republican agenda includes a rollback of environmental regulations, including President Obama’s new rules limiting carbon emissions from coal-fired power plants. We discuss this prospect with Lee Fang, a reporting fellow with The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, and blogger about money and politics at the the Republic Report. "This Republican majority owes its fortunes to a small number of fossil companies who were very big campaign spenders," Fang says. "And the next Congress will see some of the most avowed climate change deniers taking control of key congressional committees in the Senate and in the House."
President Obama is facing a similar predicament as Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — the last three presidents to serve two terms. They all governed for the final two years with the opposition controlling both chambers of Congress. "Presidents have the ability to define the last quarter of their second term, even if there is a strong opposition," says John Nichols, political writer for The Nation. "My fear with Obama is that he will let the Republicans do too much of the defining, and so this becomes an incredibly important moment for grassroots movements."
We get reaction to the Republicans’ big midterm victory from Sen. Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont. "What frightens me is what Citizens United has done to the politics of this country and the ability of billionaires like the Koch brothers and others to put unprecedented sums of money into elections," Sanders says. "I fear that we may be on the verge of becoming an oligarchic form of society where a handful of billionaires control not just the economy, but the political life of this country. And that’s just something we’re going to have wrestle with."
In Vermont, incumbent Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin has nearly been unseated in a shocking upset. In a process unique to Vermont, projections now show the governor’s race will be decided by the state Legislature after neither Shumlin nor his Republican challenger reached the necessary threshold of 50 percent. The state Legislature remains solidly Democratic, so Shumlin will likely keep his seat. But Shumlin was not considered a vulnerable candidate before last night, and Scott Milne, his challenger, was a relative unknown. The election is seen as a possible referendum on healthcare reform after Shumlin has vowed to make Vermont the first state with a single-payer healthcare system. The state’s embattled health insurance exchange implemented under Obamacare has been down since September. We are joined by Peter Sterling, executive director of Vermont Leads, an organization that advocates for single-payer healthcare in Vermont.
The Republican gains in a majority of the midterms’ tightly contested Senate races included Colorado, where Cory Gardner ousted Sen. Mark Udall, a leading Senate voice on the environment and National Security Agency surveillance of Americans. Outside groups poured millions of dollars into the campaigns. We’re joined from Denver by Susan Greene of The Colorado Independent, a longtime reporter and columnist.
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