Senate News Guide: A GOP wish list comes true

AP News
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Posted: Nov 05, 2014 2:36 AM
Senate News Guide: A GOP wish list comes true

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican wish list become reality on their march to Senate control:

—Win seats being vacated by retiring Democrats in West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota: Check.

—Defeat vulnerable Democratic incumbents in states such as Arkansas, Colorado, North Carolina: Check.

—Protect Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts from an independent challenge that could have tipped the Senate balance: Check.

—See Scott Brown defeat Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire. Well, you can't have everything.

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HOW THINGS CHANGE

The Republican takeover of the Senate is sure to complicate President Barack Obama's agenda in his final two years in office.

But it also raises expectations about Republicans using their dual legislative majorities to govern, not just hold up what Obama wants to do.

That's not going to be easy.

All the elements of gridlock are still in place. Obama can veto GOP legislation. Senate Democrats can employ the same delaying tactics on GOP initiatives that Republicans have used against them.

But it's still a huge achievement.

The levers of power that come with the majority — committee chairmanships, enhanced abilities to launch investigations that embarrass Democrats, increased budget influence — fall to the GOP.

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SO OBAMA'S HEALTH LAW IS DEAD, RIGHT?

Not so fast.

Repealing the law has been the Republican rallying cry for the past four years. But Republicans' Senate victory may not put them any closer to that goal.

The president is bound to veto bills repealing his chief domestic accomplishment. Republicans would need a two-thirds vote in each chamber to override Obama. Senate Democrats could delay a straightforward repeal bill, keeping it from reaching the president's desk.

A potentially more promising route for Republicans would be to pick off unpopular parts of the law, such as some of its taxes and mandates.

If they ever do succeed in repealing the health care overhaul, Republicans could find themselves in a tight spot: What would they do about the estimated 10 million uninsured people who have gained coverage as a result of the law?

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THE NUMBERS

Republicans needed a net gain of six seats to win control. They got that, and more.

On Tuesday, 36 seats were contested. Going into the election, Democrats held a 53-45 Senate majority, with two independents usually backing them. Tuesday's winners will serve for six years, until the end of the next president's first term.

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HOW IT UNFOLDED

West Virginia came first. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito defeated Democrat Natalie Tennant in the race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller.

In Arkansas, two-term Sen. Mark Pryor became the first Democratic incumbent to fall, defeated by freshman Rep. Tom Cotton.

In South Dakota, former Gov. Mike Rounds won the third seat for the GOP.

Montana, an open seat, went to Republicans. They rolled up another hoped-for prize, a Colorado turnover, when GOP Rep. Cory Gardner defeated incumbent Sen. Mark Udall.

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell survived a strong challenge and is on track become majority leader.

Brown's loss in New Hampshire gave Democrats reason to cheer.

But then North Carolina, the most expensive Senate race in the nation, went to Thom Tillis, speaker of the state House, over incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan, and it was game over for the Democratic majority.

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HISTORY IS MADE

In South Carolina, GOP Sen. Tim Scott easily won election, becoming the first black senator elected from the South since Reconstruction

Appointed to the Senate after the resignation of Republican Jim DeMint in 2013, Scott won the seat in his own right and will serve the remaining two years of DeMint's term.

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KANSAS GOES FOR ROBERTS

In Kansas, Roberts won re-election despite a strong push by independent Greg Orman in a state where the Democratic candidate dropped out. Roberts found himself in an unexpectedly close race after he came under fire for being out of touch with the state.

Georgia, another question mark, also stayed in the GOP column.

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EYES ON IOWA

Republican state Sen. Joni Ernst defeated U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley in a feisty contest enlivened with TV ads about castrating hogs. Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, who will lose his position as Senate majority leader, had called the outcome of that race critical. But it wasn't needed to clinch GOP control.

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Associated Press writer Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar contributed to this report.