Election Victories Give Democrats Expanded Majority in House of Representatives



Victories in congressional races across the United States have given Democrats, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, an expanded majority in the U.S. House of Representatives.  VOA congressional correspondent Dan Robinson reports on some key races, and remarks by the Democratic leadership.

Riding the wave that elected Senator Barack Obama president, Democrats were on track for a 260 or more seat majority in the House of Representatives.

Combined with a pick-up of seats in the Senate, moving them closer to a 60 seat majority there, Democrats will begin a new 111th Congress in January with their strongest hold on power since the early 1990s, while Republicans would hold 175 or fewer seats.

For President-elect Obama, who urged a new era of unity in his speech in Chicago Tuesday night, the new political reality offers the possibility of an easier time getting his agenda through Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats are ready to work with Obama, and work on new bipartisan cooperation.

"We must take a very deliberate, steady course for America," she said.  "That is exactly what Barack Obama is prepared to do as the next president of the United States."

Senator Chuck Schumer spoke bluntly about what the  strengthened majority means for Democrats.

"The days of [Republican] obstruction are over, and in a bipartisan way, we in the Senate and my colleagues in the house will work together to turn America in the right direction after eight long years," Schumer said.

Among key races:  in a closely-watched contest in Colorado, Democratic candidate Betsey Markey defeated a noted conservative Republican incumbent.

In the East, Democrat Carol Shea-Porter won a tough campaign in New Hampshire.  Moderate Connecticut Republican Christopher Shays, who gained respect for his tough questioning of witnesses at congressional hearings, lost his race.

Among several closely-watched races in Pennsylvania, Republican Phil English, outspoken on U.S. and global trade policy, lost.  Democrat and Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy won easily, as did John Murtha, known for his opposition in recent years to President Bush's Iraq war policies.

In Florida, Democrats defeated Republican incumbents in two closely-watched races. Three Cuban-American lawmakers, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, as well as Mario Diaz Balart and his brother Lincoln fought off Democratic challenges.

Virginia Republican Frank Wolf, outspoken on global human rights issues, won easily in his contest.

Reverberations have already been seen in the Republican House leadership, as the party's congressional conference chairman Florida Representative Adam Putnam, who won re-election, announced he would step down from his leadership position.

In coming weeks and months it remains to be seen what further impacts the results of the 2008 election will have on Republicans in the House. 

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