Democrats rode a wave of dissatisfaction with President Donald Trump to win control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, giving them the opportunity to block Trump’s agenda and open his administration to intense scrutiny.
In midterm elections two years after he won the White House, Trump and his fellow Republicans expanded their majority in the US Senate following a divisive campaign marked by fierce clashes over race, immigration and other cultural issues.
But Tuesday’s results were a bitter outcome for Trump after a campaign that became a referendum on his leadership.
NBC News projected Democrats would hold a 229-206 House majority, taking over control from the Republicans for the first time in eight years. Other media outlets also projected that the Democrats would pick up at least the 23 Republican-held seats they needed to win to gain a majority.
With a House majority, Democrats will have the power to investigate Trump’s tax returns, possible business conflicts of interest and allegations involving his 2016 campaign’s links to Russia.
They also could force Trump to scale back his legislative ambitions, possibly dooming his promises to fund a border wall with Mexico, pass a second major tax-cut package or carry out his hardline policies on trade.
A simple House majority would be enough to impeach Trump if evidence surfaces that he obstructed justice or that his 2016 campaign colluded with Russia. But Congress could not remove him from office without a conviction by a two-thirds majority in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Democrats in the House could be banking on launching an investigation using the results of U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s already 18-month-old probe of allegations of Russian interference on Trump’s behalf in the 2016 presidential election. Moscow denies meddling and Trump denies any collusion.
“Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America,” Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi told cheering Democrats at a Washington victory party, saying House Democrats would be a check on Trump.
“The American people want peace, they want results,” Pelosi added.
Despite his party losing the House, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Tremendous success tonight.”
Trump - a 72-year-old former reality TV star and businessman-turned-politician - hardened his rhetoric down the stretch on issues that appealed to his conservative core supporters, issuing warnings about a caravan of Latin American migrants headed to the border with Mexico and condemnations of liberal American “mobs.”
Most Democratic candidates in tight races stayed away from harsh criticism of Trump during the campaign’s final stretch, focusing instead on bread-and-butter issues like maintaining insurance protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions and safeguarding the Social Security retirement and Medicare healthcare programs for senior citizens.
Democrats also captured governorships in Michigan, Illinois and Kansas. In Kansas, Republican Kris Kobach, a Trump ally who was a leader of the president’s disbanded voter fraud commission, fell to Democratic state senator Laura Kelly.