Balance of Power in Congress Shows Little Change

Posted November 7th, 2012 at 5:25 am (UTC-5)
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While a few Congressional seats changed hands in U.S. elections Tuesday, the power balance between the Senate and the House of Representatives remains largely the same.

In the Senate, Democrats picked up at least one seat, and Republicans lost one — meaning the 2013 Senate will have at least 51 Democrats, at least 44 Republicans, and at least two independents. Three seats have yet to be decided.

Democrats made key inroads in the Senate, with Massachusetts Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren beating Republican incumbent Senator Scott Brown. Democrats also won the swing state of Virginia, where Democratic former governor Tim Kaine prevailed over Republican former governor George Allen. In Ohio, Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown held off a challenge from Republican Josh Mandel.

Democrats also picked up a seat in Indiana, where Representative Joe Donnelly defeated Republican Richard Mourdock. The contest drew national attention after Mourdock made controversial remarks about rape and abortion. Another Republican candidate who made similarly controversial remarks, Representative Todd Akin, also lost in Missouri to incumbent Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill.

The Democrats also held on to Florida,where incumbent Bill Nelson defeated Republican Connie Mack, while in Maine, independent Angus King won the seat vacated by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe.

With 31 seats out of 435 still undecided, projections also indicate little will change in the House. Republicans currently have 228 seats, while Democrats so far have won 176. Republican Representative John Boehner of Ohio will likely retain his post as House Speaker.

In a statement late Tuesday night, Boehner said Republicans were “humbled” to have been chosen by voters to lead the House and that they would continue to oppose any calls to raise taxes. But he also offered to work with either candidate in the presidency.

A number of polls have shown many Americans have been frustrated by what they see as rampant politicking and animosity on the part of lawmakers, seeing little improvement in their day-to-day lives. But their views of lawmakers appeared to improve in the weeks preceding Tuesday's election.

A poll by the Gallup Organization released two weeks ago found 21 percent of Americans approved of the job Congress was doing, up from 13 percent in September. It was also the highest rating for lawmakers since May 2011.

Gallup says that, going back to 1974, the average job approval rating in Congress has been about 34 percent. Gallup also says most voters think more highly of their own representatives than they do of other members of Congress.