Democrats expand majorities in Congress

Wed Nov 5, 2008 12:17am EST
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By Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democrats expanded their majorities in both chambers of the U.S. Congress in Tuesday's election to position themselves to quickly act on much of U.S. President-elect Barack Obama's ambitious agenda.

But Democrats fell at least a few seats short of obtaining for the first time in three decades the 60 needed in the 100-member Senate to clear Republican procedural hurdles.

Still, Democrats expressed hope that in wake of the election they will be able to win over a few moderate Republicans to pass major measures, including ones to begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and end the worst economic crisis since The Great Depression.

"They (Republicans) are going to have to be more cooperative. They have to realize their old way of just blocking everything just doesn't work for them," a Democratic leadership aide said.

"Heck, their party got its butt kicked tonight and (Senate Republican Leader Mitch) McConnell barely won another term," the aide said.

By picking up five seats with several other Senate contests yet to be decided, Democrats had increased their majority to 56, and figured that they would get at least a few more.

"There is no way in hell of getting 60," one aide said. races. "But I think we gain at least six seats, maybe seven," to reach 57 or 58.

Overall 35 Senate seats were up for election, 23 held by Republicans, the others by Democrats. Many of the races involving seats held by Republicans were seen as competitive.   Continued...