Dems pick up a seat and lose another in battle for control of the U.S. Senate (Updated)

WASHINGTON — Democrats gained at least one Republican-held seat in the U.S. Senate, but also lost a seat of their own and were unable to defeat several GOP incumbents in the elections, ending up early Wednesday with an increasingly challenging path to wresting control of the chamber away from Republicans.

The initial results showed a disappointing night for Democrats, and made the prospect of another two years of a politically divided Congress more likely, even as lawmakers struggle to come to an agreement on an economic relief package amid the pandemic.

In Colorado, Democrats succeeded in flipping the seat held by GOP Sen. Cory Gardner, a first-term lawmaker seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Republicans this cycle. He struggled in his reelection race against Democratic former Gov. John Hickenlooper, who also sought the presidential nomination this year.

“Regardless of which party ends up controlling the Senate, I want you to know what I will work with anyone and everyone to help Coloradans,” Hickenlooper said.

Gardner pledged to assist Hickenlooper in the transition, and called for unity: “Please understand, to all the people who supported our efforts tonight, that his success is Colorado’s success, and our nation and our state need him to succeed.”

At the same time, Democrats, as predicted, lost a seat in Alabama. Sen. Doug Jones was defeated by Republican candidate Tommy Tuberville, former head football coach at Auburn University. The Associated Press called the Alabama race.

Other Senate Republicans that Democrats had targeted held off their challengers.

In a neck-and-neck contest in North Carolina, Democrat Cal Cunningham had an early lead, but GOP Sen. Thom Tillis closed the gap as results trickled in for a 96,000-vote lead with 94% reporting. The AP and other news outlets hadn’t called the race when Tillis declared victory shortly before midnight.

“I have a very hard time right now seeing how Democrats win back the Senate,” Jessica Taylor, a Senate analyst with the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, tweeted early Wednesday morning, adding that the remaining path was “not impossible, but looking unlikely.”

Democrats headed into Election Day well-positioned to potentially regain a majority in the Senate, where Republicans hold 53 seats to the Democrats’ 47 (a tally that includes two independents who caucus with the party).

Flipping partisan control would require Democrats to pick up four seats, or just three if Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden claims

the White House, since his vice president would break any ties on the Senate floor.
Which party controls the Senate will have significant implications for the next president and his agenda. On the other end of the U.S. Capitol, Democrats were projected on Tuesday to maintain a majority in the U.S. House. If Biden secures enough votes to become president, his policy agenda could be blocked by a GOP Senate — and a Democratic one could give him the votes to sign his top priorities into law.

The clearest path for Democrats to flip the Senate was through winning GOP-held seats in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and either Iowa or North Carolina, according to analysts who track those races. But final results for most of those races had yet to come late Tuesday, as polls closed across the country.

In Arizona, Democrat Mark Kelly had a 10-point lead over Republican incumbent Martha McSally with 76% of votes reported. But in Iowa, Republican incumbent Joni Ernst held off Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield after a close and historically expensive race there. And

in Maine, Republican incumbent Susan Collins led Democrat Sara Gideon, 52% to 41%, with two-thirds of votes tallied.
Another Republican incumbent defended his seat from a Democratic challenger. In Montana’s Senate race, Sen. Steve Daines beat the state’s current governor, Steve Bullock, with 53% percent of the votes as reported by the AP.

Meanwhile in Michigan, early results showed Democratic Sen. Gary Peters trailing his Republican challenger, businessman and Iraq War veteran John James, but significant numbers of mail ballots remained to be counted there.

Georgia has two Senate races, where several scenarios can play out and the outcome of each race could take up to days or even weeks. In each race, a candidate needs to get more than 50% of the votes or else a runoff election will be held on Jan. 5 with the top two candidates.

One race is a special election with Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed last year after Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped down due to health problems. As of late Tuesday, Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock had a slim lead over Loeffler, but neither candidate passed the 50% percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. Another Republican candidate in Georgia’s special election, Doug Collins, wrote on Twitter that he called to congratulate Loeffler, as she would be the Republican candidate in a runoff election.

“I look forward to all Republicans coming together,” he wrote. “Raphael Warnock would be a disaster for Georgia and America.”
Georgia’s other race, between incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue and Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff, has not been called yet.

However, Perdue late Tuesday had a lead above the 50% percent threshold.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina kept his Senate seat, according to The Associated Press, in a competitive race against his Democratic opponent Jaime Harrison, who brought in a whopping $107 million in fundraising. Democrats had hoped to upseat Graham, a close ally to the president who shepherded the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett through the Senate.

Another Republican that kept his seat was Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, a member of GOP leadership. He beat his Democratic challenger, MJ Hegar, according to the AP.

In Kansas, where the Senate seat held by Republican Pat Roberts was open, the AP declared Republican Roger Marshall the winner in the contest against Democrat Barbara Bollier.

But Democrats are defending far fewer competitive seats than the GOP is, an advantage that was bolstered by a polarizing Republican president whose struggles in the polls have not helped down-ballot Republicans. The party also kept its seat in Virginia, with Sen. Mark Warner’s reelection, which the AP called shortly after polls closed. However, Republican challenger Daniel Gade slammed the AP for calling the race and was refusing to concede late Tuesday.

Democratic Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota also kept her seat from her challenger, Republican candidate Jason Lewis, which the AP called. She won nearly 50% of reported votes.

Democrats also were boosted by a flood of campaign cash, as Senate races across the country shattered political fundraising records.

As of mid-October, eight of the top 10 most expensive Senate races have taken place in the 2020 cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And in Senate races, Democrats outraised Republicans, pulling in $726 million to Republicans’ $423 million through September.
In Kentucky’s Senate race, Democratic nominee Amy McGrath raised $88 million in funding, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell won his reelection campaign. He raised $55.5 million.

Struggle for control of the U.S. Senate enters its final tense hours

Barrett nomination advances to the U.S. Senate floor with a GOP-only vote

Mourners line up outside the U.S. Supreme Court for the public viewing for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo: Laura Olson.

Tillis joins Republican colleagues as Democrats boycott vote in protest

WASHINGTON—Republicans on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, as Democrats boycotted the markup in a show of protest.

The 12 Republicans on the panel speedily voted on Barrett’s nomination and sent it to the Senate floor. The full Senate will vote Monday, and Barrett is expected to be confirmed, with only a simple majority vote needed. “I doubt a single Dem will vote for her,” Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said.

While Democrats boycotted the markup, placed in the seats of their empty chairs were large pictures of people with pre-existing health conditions who would be harmed if the Affordable Care Act were repealed. Democrats throughout the confirmation process have stressed how devastating it would be to overturn the ACA in the middle of a pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans since early this year.

The Supreme Court is hearing a Republican challenge to the law next month, and President Donald Trump has tweeted and publicly stated that all his nominees to the Supreme Court will vote to repeal the landmark Obama-era health care law.

Barrett, 48, a judge for the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Illinois, was tapped to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died Sept. 18. Barrett’s nomination has spurred an outcry from Democrats, who argue that she should not be confirmed with only 11 days till the presidential election.

Advocates fear her religious views and track record on abortion rights and LGBT rights, as well as her previous writings on health care, will harm Americans.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), speaking to reporters outside the hearing room, defended Barrett’s Catholic religion.

“This is the most openly pro-life candidate for the Supreme Court in my lifetime,” he said, according to a pool report. “And once again, their attempts to attack her for her pro-life views which are well established in the record, just to fall flat. Polls clearly reflect the American people want her confirmed. She will be confirmed on Monday.”

If approved, Barrett’s confirmation will significantly shift the court to the right for generations, giving conservatives six of the nine seats.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a senior member of Judiciary, also defended Barrett, saying that she would stick to the law.

“Throughout the hearing, Democrats spun a bunch of nonsense about Judge Barrett and the Affordable Care Act,” Grassley said. “We all know that that’s bunk from how she’s described her approach to that ACA. Judge Barrett made clear then that she doesn’t have an agenda.”

Barrett worked as a law professor at Notre Dame Law School for many years and previously clerked under the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who was her mentor.

Graham said that her nomination would be iconic for conservative women, just like Ginsburg’s, who was seen as a feminist hero and left a legacy of women’s rights.

“It’s historic for young conservative women knowing that there’s a seat at the table for them,” he said.

Outside on the Capitol steps, Senate Democrats voiced their opposition to Barrett during a news conference. As they spoke, a handful of protesters dressed as handmaids who also oppose Barrett’s confirmation could be heard shouting.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) criticized what he described as “the most rushed, the most partisan, and least legitimate process” of a Supreme Court nomination.

“Democrats will not lend one single ounce of legitimacy to this awful, awful hearing,” Schumer said. “We are voting with our feet.” Read more