- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2002

Tight races across the country last night left open the question of which party will control the House and Senate and what it will mean for President Bush's congressional agenda.
The political stakes are high in this midterm election. Democrats hold the balance of power in the Senate by one vote and were unable to net six seats to take control of the House.
Republicans won Georgia, with Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeating Sen. Max Cleland 53 to 46 percent with 75 percent of precincts reporting. Races were also closing in favor of Republicans in the key states of Missouri and Minnesota.
Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican, said a win would put President Bush's agenda back on track, having been derailed in 2000 when Vermont Sen. James M. Jeffords defected from the Republican Party and handed control to Democrats.
"If Republicans take back the Senate, we are going to have a very busy agenda," Mr. Lott said.
Republican strategist Cheri Jacobus said returning power to Republicans would deliver a mandate for Mr. Bush and his agenda.
"The American people did not vote for a Democratic Senate two years ago when Jim Jeffords decided to switch parties," Miss Jacobus said. "Democrats are now going to have to play ball with a very popular president."
Mr. Lott said a Republican win means the Senate can begin moving political and judicial nominations stalled for years by Democrats.
"We have a long list of things that have to be done because Democrats didn't do so this year," he said.
Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said Republican control will give Mr. Bush more power over Congress.
"He will get some credit, which means when he asks for votes or makes a big deal out of an issue, it injects a little more of a threat that he has political potency," Mr. Ornstein said.
Mr. Ornstein said Mr. Bush should remember the axiom to be careful what he wishes for, because it may come true.
"To have both houses of Congress and the White House means that everyone believes you are in charge, but you don't have the numbers in both houses to get what you want," Mr. Ornstein said.
"There almost has to be perfect discipline, and you've got to have 60 votes to overcome hurdles in the Senate," Mr. Ornstein said. "I know that privately, plenty of people around Bush believe as well that his own interests are better served if he has someone to point to and blame."
Dan Allen, spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said they were cautiously optimistic going into the final hours.
"Clearly, if Republicans get control back, we would have people who would work with President Bush to move the country forward on issues like homeland security and judicial nominees," Mr. Allen said. "Republicans would work to move forward rather than obstructing like the Senate Democrats are doing."
In the House, all 435 seats are up for re-election and are expected to remain in Republican control.
In Arkansas, where Republicans have complained of rampant voter fraud, a judge signed an injunction at the request of Democrats to keep polls open until 9 p.m. in a key county. That injunction was overturned. Republicans say that same practice in 2000 cost them the Missouri Senate seat.
Miss Jacobus said keeping control of the House would be a "feather in Mr. Bush's cap."
"In the midterm election, the party in power loses House seats. That's a victory for Mr. Bush for the House to stay Republican. Especially if Republicans pick up seats, that would be historical," Miss Jacobus said.
If Republicans retain control of the House and take back the Senate they will drive Mr. Bush's agenda, which includes a permanent tax cut, medical liability, creation of the Department of Homeland Security and confirming the president's judicial nominees.
Mr. Lott said Republicans would "do something novel" and pass a budget.
If Democrats retain control of the Senate and take the House, their priorities will include an $800 billion prescription-drug plan, an increase in the minimum wage and no permanent tax cut.
Mr. Bush made a last-minute push across the country to stump for Republicans to further his agenda.
"I need to have allies in the United States Senate who understand growth and job creation," Mr. Bush said Monday while campaigning for former Rep. Jim Talent for the Missouri Senate race. "And one way to help people find work is to let people keep more of their own money."
The fact that Mr. Bush is actively campaigning shows the strength of his popularity nationwide, Miss Jacobus said.
"The truth is Republicans want their president to campaign for them, in contrast with Bill Clinton, who had a lot of candidates who distanced themselves from him and did not want him to campaign for them," Miss Jacobus said.
While campaigning earlier in the day for Iowa Rep. Greg Ganske's Senate race, Mr. Bush said he needs more Republicans in the Senate to help confirm his judicial nominations.
"It's a defining issue as far as I'm concerned. It's a fundamental issue, and we've got a problem because the leadership in the Senate has done a lousy job with my nominees," Mr. Bush said.
Political observers say conservative judicial nominees will not see Senate confirmation unless Republicans take back control.
"The Senate has been a graveyard for the president's nominees," said Tripp Baird, director of Senate relations at the Heritage Foundation.
If Democrats retain control by a small margin, Mr. Lott said, it's not certain Mr. Bush's agenda and nominations will continue to hit a brick wall.
"Our first question will be are you willing to change and work with us and the president on behalf of the American people, and the president will push them to do more for national defense and the economy," Mr. Lott said.

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