Election splits Congress, GOP bolstered as Democrats falter

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks to reporters during a press conference in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. McConnell secured a seventh term in Kentucky, fending off Democrat Amy McGrath. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

WASHINGTON – The election scrambled seats in the House and Senate but ultimately left Congress much like it began, deeply split as voters resisted big changes despite the heated race at the top of the ticket for the White House.

It’s an outcome that dampens Democratic demands for a bold new agenda, emboldens Republicans and almost ensures partisan gridlock regardless of who wins the presidency. Or perhaps, as some say, it provides a rare opening for modest across-the-aisle cooperation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi was on track to keep control of the Democratic House, but saw her majority shrinking and her leadership called into question. Control of the Senate tilted Republicans' way as they fended off an onslaught of energized challengers, though a few races remained undecided Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he’s confident “no matter who ends up running the government” they’ll be “trying to overcome all that and get results.”

One certainty is the upended projections will force a rethinking of polling, fundraising and the very messages the parties use to reach voters in the Trump era and beyond.

By evening, Pelosi had all but declared Democrat Joe Biden the winner, saying House Democrats “will now have the opportunity to deliver extraordinary progress” on party priorities — lowering health care costs, providing jobs through new infrastructure and others.

But the dismal outcome for congressional Democrats put in question the ambitious plans for legislative overhauls pushed by the party, eager for a sweep of Washington government.

Even if Democrats capture the White House and a narrowly split Senate, Pelosi's leverage to force deal-making on her terms will be diminished by her House losses.