Donald Lambro

How the new Democratic Congress will deal with the Iraq war -- one of the paramount issues in the elections -- will also be debated hotly.

During the campaign, Democratic leaders called for reducing the number of troops in Iraq by the end of this year. But any attempt by Democrats to legislate reductions would surely invite a presidential veto that would be difficult if not impossible to override at this stage in the ongoing debate over the war.

Still, there will be numerous opportunities for antiwar amendments on defense-spending bills in the Senate -- including an additional $1 billion sought by departing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to accelerate the training of more Iraqi troops. This, at the very least, will fuel further debate on the war and perhaps undercut the administration's ability to maintain its present force levels there until the Iraqi military can take over.

Meantime, it should be noted that the Democrats will be taking over Congress at a time when, absent the war debate, the country is doing pretty well overall. After a year of dismal polls showing Americans were sour on the economy, election-day exit polling showed that nearly half of the voters (49 percent) say the economy is either excellent or good.

As a result, the budget deficit is in steep decline, thanks to a strong increase in federal tax receipts, homeownership is pushing near the 70 percent mark, and most Americans feel good about their finances.

One of the most important questions in the exit poll found that 82 percent said they were either "getting ahead financially" or had enough money to "maintain their standard of living."

Now, after 12 years in the minority, the Democrats are getting ready to take over the legislative reins of power once more. What they do with that power and whether they make things better or worse for Americans on a broad range of issues will be judged in the next election cycle which, by my count, begins seven weeks from now.

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.