U.S. Republican wave sweeps Democrats from House

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – Disenchanted U.S. voters  swept Democrats from power in the House of Representatives and  strengthened the ranks of Senate Republicans yesterday in an  election rout that dealt a sharp rebuke to President Barack  Obama.

Two years after Obama won the White House, voter anxiety  about the struggling economy and discontent with his leadership  fueled big Republican gains that toppled Democratic House  Speaker Nancy Pelosi from power and ushered in a new era of  divided government.

Television networks projected Republicans would pick up at  least 50 House seats, more than the 39 they need for a majority  that would elevate conservative John Boehner to House speaker,  put Republicans in charge of House committees and slam the  brakes on Obama’s agenda.

It was the biggest shift in power at least since  Republicans gained 54 House seats in 1994, when Democrat Bill  Clinton was in the White House.

“Our new majority will be prepared to do things  differently,” Boehner told supporters at a Washington hotel.  “It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it,  reducing the size of government instead of increasing it, and  reforming the way Congress works.”

Obama made a late-night call to Boehner to offer his  congratulations and discuss working together to creating jobs  and improving the economy, a Boehner aide said.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid pulled out a win in the  country’s most high-profile Senate race after a heated  re-election fight with Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle in  Nevada.

Democrats also won key Senate races in West Virginia and  California, where networks projected Senator Barbara Boxer  would win re-election, ensuring Democrats would retain at least  a slender Senate majority.

Republican control of the House will likely spark  legislative gridlock, weakening Obama’s hand in fights over the  extension of soon-to-expire income-tax cuts and the passage of  comprehensive energy or immigration bills.

“The ability of this administration to get major new  programs done was already limited. This just seals the deal,”  said Jaret Seiberg, policy analyst with the investment advisory  firm, Washington Research Group.
U.S. stock futures pulled back from earlier gains as  Republican chances of a Senate takeover waned. With opinion  polls favoring Republicans, markets had factored in a  Republican House win and Senate Democratic hold.
Investors said the outcome of today’s U.S. Federal  Reserve meeting was of greater market importance. The Fed is  expected to announce it will pump billions into the economy to  speed the recovery.

All 435 House seats, 37 of the 100 Senate seats, and 37 of  the 50 state governorships were at stake in yesterday’s voting.

Television networks said exit polls showed voters were  deeply worried about the economy, with eight in every 10 voters  saying it was a chief concern, and unhappy with Obama. Four of  every 10 voters said they supported the Tea Party, and nearly  three-quarters believed government did not function properly.

The Republican rout knocked nearly 30 Democratic incumbents  out of the House, including veterans like Ike Skelton, chairman  of the Armed Services Committee, and John Spratt, chairman of  the Budget Committee.
In the Senate, Republicans picked up Democratic seats in  Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Arkansas as  well as Obama’s former seat in Illinois. Democrats held the  late Robert Byrd’s seat in West Virginia, Boxer won in  California and Reid won in Nevada.

Florida Republican Marco Rubio and Kentucky Republican Rand  Paul became the first Tea Party-backed candidates to win Senate  seats, ensuring an influx of conservative views in the staid  chamber. Another Tea Party favorite, Republican Christine  O’Donnell in Delaware, lost her race.

TEA PARTY RISES

Anger over government spending and economic weakness gave  rise to the Tea Party, a loosely organized conservative  movement that backed a message of smaller government and lower  taxes.
“It’s a message that I will carry with me on day one. It’s  a message of fiscal sanity. It’s a message of limited  constitutional government and balanced budgets,” Paul told  supporters in Kentucky.

Republicans picked up at least nine governorships from  Democrats, including the battleground state of Ohio, and held  the office in Texas in a race with important implications for  the once-a-decade redrawing of congressional districts that  begins next year.

Democrat Jerry Brown won in California in the race to  succeed Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Obama will hold a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT)  today to talk about the post-election landscape.

Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat, said no significant  legislation would pass without input from Republicans.

“We need to move beyond filibusters and enter a real  conversation about passing legislation that this country  needs,” he told Reuters.

Republican candidates had pushed an agenda of spending cuts  and at least a partial repeal of Obama’s healthcare and Wall  Street reforms, but Obama could veto their efforts.

Stocks in health insurers like UnitedHealth Group Inc,  WellPoint Inc and Aetna Inc are likely to rise on Republican  gains, even if a full repeal of healthcare reform is unlikely.

Voters yesterday also weighed in on a variety of topics:  in California, for example, they could approve a measure that  would legalize possession of marijuana.

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