WASHINGTON - While U.S. President Barack Obama won re-election, his Democratic Party boosted its numbers in the Senate, which it already controls. Republicans will retain their strong majority in the House of Representatives, again giving the country a politically-divided legislature.
In Massachusetts, Democrats won back the seat held by Senator Edward Kennedy until his death in 2009. In her victory speech, Senator-elect Elizabeth Warren promised to protect the elderly from spending cuts advocated by Republicans as a cure for fiscal woes.
“To all the seniors, who deserve to retire with the security they earn, we are going to make sure your Medicare and Social Security benefits are protected and that millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share [of taxes]," he said.
Her opponent, current Republican Senator Scott Brown, expressed no bitterness in defeat.
“Let me tell you, you have got no business in politics unless you respect the judgment of people. And, if you run for office, you have got to be able to take it either way, winning or losing," he said.
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Massachusetts is one of many states in which Democrats either gained a Senate seat or successfully defended a seat that had been considered vulnerable to a Republican pick-up.
In Wisconsin, Democrat Tammy Baldwin made history as the first openly-gay person elected to the Senate.
In Indiana, Democrat Joe Donnelly won a seat currently held by Republican Richard Lugar, who was defeated in a primary battle by Republican challenger Richard Mourdock. In his victory speech, Donnelly struck a note of bipartisanship.
“This is not about politics. This is not about one party or the other," he said. "I am going there as your senator, to work for your family. I am the hired help and I cannot wait to get to work.”
Mourdock had been considered a favorite to win until he made a controversial statement that pregnancies arising from rape are "God’s will." In his concession speech, Mourdock made no apologies for his staunch anti-abortion views.
"Make no mistake, I stand that all life is precious in the eyes of God," he said.
But if Republicans lost ground in the Senate, they retained their substantial majority in the House of Representatives. House Speaker John Boehner said Republicans will stick to their principles and act as a bulwark against Democratic designs.
"For two years, our House majority has been the primary line of defense for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, certainly borrows too much when it is left unchecked. And, tonight, they have responded by renewing our House Republican majority," he said.
With a divided Congress, bipartisanship will be needed to address America’s enormous fiscal challenges. Such bipartisanship has been all but missing in the last two years.
But the coming of a new Congress with a newly re-elected president does offer at least the chance for a rekindled spirit of compromise and a sincere effort to bridge ideological gulfs. Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas called for a post-election period of “reflection and re-calibration”, adding that work remains to be done.