Democrats claim Senate control

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, expected to become the next speaker, vowed yesterday to put aside partisanship and usher into Congress fiscal discipline and ethical integrity, while her party put the final touch on its electoral victory by apparently winning control of the Senate.

Democratic electoral gains grew yesterday to 29 House seats, with 10 other races still in doubt. On the Senate side, they claimed victory yesterday in the last three states needed to take their gains to six seats.

Missouri Sen. Jim Talent conceded defeat to Democrat Claire McCaskill this morning.

Montana Republican Sen. Conrad Burns did not throw in the towel despite trailing Jon Tester in the final unofficial tally. Virginia Sen. George Allen was close enough to Democrat James H. Webb Jr. that he could demand a recount. But several news organizations, including the Associated Press, called the two races for the Democrats.

“This new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people,” Mrs. Pelosi said yesterday, one day after Democrats stripped Republicans of about 30 House seats and staked a claim to the final three seats needed to take the Senate.

“We will make this the most honest, ethical and open Congress in history,” she said, alluding to promises the Republican class of 1994 made but failed to deliver on.

As Mrs. Pelosi laid out her vision for the 110th Congress, stunned House Republicans began behind-the-scenes maneuvers for a major shake-up of their leadership.

By midafternoon, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert said he would quit the top post and other Republicans emerged to challenge current party leaders.

“The days of the do-nothing Congress are over,” Sen. Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, in line to become majority leader, said in a statement issued after the AP called the Virginia race for Mr. Webb.

Earlier yesterday, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican whip and in line to head his party because Majority Leader Bill Frist is retiring, played down the impact of possibly losing the chamber.

“In the Senate, the minority is never irrelevant unless it falls down into the very small numbers. I don’t think, as a practical matter, it’s going to make a whole lot of difference in the Senate, being at 49,” he said.

Republicans, including party leaders, acknowledged yesterday that the party had wandered far from its commitment 12 years ago to clean up corruption, shrink the federal government and slash irresponsible spending. Majority Leader John A. Boehner, who announced yesterday that he would run for minority leader in Republican leadership elections next week, said the party must recommit itself to those principles.

“Our voters stopped thinking of us as the party of principle because we lost our commitment to and confidence in our core principles,” the Ohio Republican said in a letter to his colleagues yesterday. “We fell into the trap of exploiting the marginal advantages of majority control instead of constantly advancing those principles.

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