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How will control of Congress enable Trump to carry out his policies?

© Zach Gibson / Getty Images North America / AFP

Text by Yona HELAOUA , in Washington DC

Latest update : 2016-11-10

Not only did their candidate score a shock win in the presidential vote Tuesday night, but the Republicans also held their grip on Congress, giving Donald Trump more power to bring about policy change than his predecessor Barack Obama ever enjoyed.

The results of the elections to the Senate and the House of Representatives that trickled through overnight Tuesday were almost as much as a surprise as the presidential vote. Contrary to predictions, the Senate is set to remain in Republican hands, with the GOP winning 51 seats.

The party will also maintain control of the House, where the Democrats failed to make significant inroads to the Republicans' majority.

France 24 spoke to Sarah Rosier, federal politics editor at online US politics encyclopedia Ballotpedia, to find out what this will mean for Trump's presidency.

France 24: Like Donald Trump winning the White House, the Senate race confounded election watchers. What did you make of this election?

Sarah Rose: The most surprising thing to us was just how well Republicans held their seats in the Senate. It's looking like once we have the final call in New Hampshire and Louisiana those two seats will both go Republican [Editors note: since this interview was conducted, New Hampshire has in fact been declared for Democrat Maggie Hassan] and then they will only have lost one seat this cycle and that was not what we were expecting. The Republicans had so many more seats to defend that we were expecting a few more seats to flip than we saw last night.

The Wisconsin result in particular was surprising for both the Senate and presidential elections. It was interesting across the board how the Republican Senate candidates did in comparison to how Trump did. In Wisconsin, Trump has 47.9 percent of the vote as things stand but Ron Johnson [Republican Senate candidate for Wisconsin] did even better with 50.2 percent of the vote. So that was interesting because we were expecting a very close race there but in the end Johnson even outperformed Trump.

With Republicans now having majorities in the House and Senate, what policies are going to be the top priority for the new Congress?

One of the first items on the agenda will probably be healthcare. The Affordable Care Act is something the Republicans have already tried in many different ways to adjust with their idea of repeal and replace. Now that there's not going to be any presidential veto on anything to do with healthcare that will give them much greater ability to do that. The healthcare debate is also something I would argue has helped Trump in these last few weeks: In October a lot of citizens were getting information on their 2017 healthcare plan deductibles and saw that their costs were increasing. That would have been on their minds when they went to the ballot box.

Of course a lot of pundits are talking about how Trump is going to deal with immigration. One of his big talking points throughout the entire campaign was the idea of the border wall with Mexico. That will be harder to do because not all Republican senators are on board with that. Some like Marco Rubio have pushed for different types of immigration reform.

The third thing will probably be trade. It was clear that a big reason Trump won last night was the American Rust Belt – the states in the Midwest where manufacturing jobs have left.

On a more general note, there are still a lot of Republican senators who are eating crow this morning because they did not necessarily support Trump and now he's the figurehead of the party: it will be interesting to see how those senators and the Trump administration interact in the first few months.

Who among the Democrats is most likely to lead the opposition to Trump?

Trump's was clearly a populist, grassroots victory and if Democrats want to get near that in the next few years you could be looking at someone like [Massachusetts Senator] Elizabeth Warren, who has that populist appeal, who makes the argument for the same demographic as Trump but from a different angle. I think Elizabeth Warren will therefore see her popularity rise in the next few years.

Kirsten Gillibrand, the Senator from New York, who has always been viewed as Hillary's protégée and she could also be a rising star. Bernie Sanders will also be a big player of course. He played such a big role in the primaries and people will always wonder what would have happened if it had been Sanders against Trump. I think you'll see this combination of Warren and Sanders and then also someone more traditional like Gillibrand.

Date created : 2016-11-10


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