Republicans retained their grip on power Tuesday night in both the Senate and House of Representatives, but political pundits say the impact of the next U.S. Congress depends on who wins the still-contested presidency.
In the Senate, Democrats picked up three seats from the GOP, giving them a total of 49 and leaving the Republicans with 50 seats. A seat from Washington still is undecided.
Regardless of who becomes president, the GOP will maintain the Senate.
If Gore wins, the governor of Connecticut, a Republican, will appoint a senator from his party to replace Joe Lieberman.
And if Bush and Maria Cantwell, the Senate Democratic candidate from Washington state, win their races, the Senate would be split in half along party lines. In that case, the deciding vote would be cast by Vice President Richard Cheney.
In the House, Democrats gained two seats, leaving them 211 representatives and the Republicans with 220 seats.
If Bush wins the election, a hat trick for the Republicans will give them unified control of the government, said David Epstein, Columbia University political science professor. "Accidentally, it will be a two-year window of opportunity for them to enact their political agenda," Epstein said.
But if Gore wins, the legislative and executive branches will remain in the hands of different political parties.
When the Senate reconvenes in January, a record 10 women - and possibly one widow - will serve.
"It was a good night for women in the Senate and a continuation of slow, but steady, progress," said Barbara Sinclair, a University of California at Los Angeles political science professor. She said female senators could discuss issues important to women nationwide.
One of Tuesday night's senatorial victories made history when Hillary Clinton became the first sitting first lady to win a U.S. Senate seat.
She defeated Republican candidate Rick Lazio with 56 percent of the vote to become New York's newest senator.
"The Republicans have gained unified control of the government, but for the last six years, President Clinton has been tying them up with vetoes," said Charles Cameron, Columbia University political science professor. "Now it is his wife's turn to do the same with the filibuster, making New Yorkers happy."
In the Missouri Senate race, the deceased Democrat candidate Mel Carnahan won the seat by a narrow 2 percent over incumbent Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., Carnahan was killed in an airplane crash only three weeks before the election, but his name could not be removed from the ballot because his death occurred so close to Election Day.
Missouri Gov. Roger Wilson earlier announced that he would appoint Carnahan's wife, Jean. She has said that she will accept the seat.
Randall Calvert, Washington University political science professor, said he does not think Carnahan won solely on sympathy votes because the Democrats swept offices statewide. "After Carnahan's death, Ashcroft was trapped because he couldn't campaign aggressively out of respect for the deceased but still needed a strong campaign to win the seat."
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