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Democrats Expand Congressional Majorities


Democrats expanded their majority in the U.S. Congress as a result of Tuesday's election. More Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives could help President-elect Barack Obama implement his ambitious agenda once he takes office in January. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Washington.

Among the Republican-held seats picked up by Democrats is the U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina.

Democratic state legislator Kay Hagan unseated incumbent Republican Senator Elizabeth Dole, a key name in the Republican Party. Dole, who is also a former Cabinet secretary and who is married to former presidential candidate and Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, offered a gracious concession speech.

"It has been an honor and a joy to represent the people of North Carolina in the United States Senate," she said. "I have done my level best to make you proud."

In New Hampshire, former Democratic governor Jeanne Shaheen unseated incumbent Republican Senator John Sununu.

In Virginia, another one-time Democratic governor Mark Warner won the seat held by retiring Republican Senator John Warner.

"The challenges we face are much more about the future past and as long as we face that future and avoid the political divisions of the past, there is nothing we can't accomplish as Americans first and foremost," Warner said.

In two races in the western United States, Democratic Congressmen Tom and Mark Udall won Senate seats held by retiring Republicans. Tom Udall was elected to the seat in New Mexico held by Pete Domenici and his cousin Mark won the seat in Colorado held by Wayne Allard.

Despite their gains in the Senate, Democrats are not expected to reach a 60-vote majority that would allow them to overcome Republican efforts to block legislation. Still, Democrats believe they can persuade enough moderate Republicans to back key measures so that they can come up with the 60 votes needed to move the legislation through the Senate.

In one key Republican victory, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky won re-election in a close race against Democrat Bruce Lunsford.

Another Republican returning to the Senate is Senator John McCain, following his loss to President-elect Barack Obama in the presidential race.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, says he will welcome him back.

"I congratulate him on a hard-fought campaign," Reid said. "I look forward to him coming back to the Senate. I look forward to working with him."

Democrats also made gains in the House of Representatives. Among Republicans losing to Democrats was Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut, who has spent 22 years in the position.

More Democrats in Congress will help President-elect Barack Obama swiftly implement his agenda, according to Nathan Gonzales of the Rothenberg Political Report.

"The honeymoon for President Obama could even extend beyond 100 days because, frankly, Republicans, can't do anything to stop them after 100 days," Gonzales said. "We are going to be a Democratic town starting in January."

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi outlined her priorities for next year, including measures to improve the economy, and bringing U.S. combat troops home from Iraq.

"We will responsibly, and honorably and soon, bring an end to the war in Iraq," Pelosi said.

She said other priorities include education and making efforts toward energy independence.

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