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Republican Senator Richard Lugar
Republican Senator Richard Lugar 
 
Democrat Barney Frank Photo: AP
Democrat Barney Frank Photo: AP
 
 

 

US Congress: Fighting over a polarized house

Republicans expected to maintain majority at House of Representatives, while Democrats likely to keep control over Senate. Status quo means continued lock-down

Yitzhak Benhorin
Published: 11.06.12, 17:46 / Israel News

WASHINGTON - While global attention is focused on the battle between Obama and Romney for the White House, a battle no less crucial is being waged over the US Congress.

 

The past two years have seen the Senate and the House of Representatives locked in legislative stalemate in the wake of "Tea Party" radicals' resistance to compromise and Republican Mitch McConnell's mission to make Obama a one-term president.

 

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Unlike past years, Democrats and Republicans have been struggling to reach compromises necessary to restoring the US economy.

 

The latest polls show that Republicans will most likely maintain their majority in the House while the Democrats are likely to keep control over the Senate. 

 

Maintaining the status quo could prove to be a source for trouble for the new Congress. Moderate Republican congressmen, such as Indiana's Richard Lugar, have lost the party's primaries and were replaced by hard-line conservatives who will be running for a seat against the Democrats.

  

The Republican Party is steering more and more to the Right, and is no longer the centrist–rightist party that it was in the days of Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, George Bush Jr. or even George Bush Sr. 


מאזן הכוחות לא צפוי להשתנות. בניין הקונגרס בוושינגטון (צילום: רויטרס)

Congress building in Washington. (Photo: Reuters)

 

If Obama wins the elections, it will be his last term leaving "Tea Party" members with no political motivation to sabotage his efforts and thus increasing chances of compromise.

 

In addition, politicians are set to face increasing public pressure to reach a bi-partisan compromise aimed at energizing the economy.

 

Each party aims to secure a two-thirds Senate majority of at least 60 seats. This enables parties to prevent a Filibuster - a political ploy used to delay approval of bills. Senators traditionally read out long speeches which effectively prevent the plenum from voting.

 

Senators are elected for a six-year term, and elections are held every two years for one third of the seats.

 

The past term saw Democrats enjoying a majority of 53 seats vs. 47 Republicans. The current battle will be over 33 seats, of which 21 are held by Democrats, 10 by Republicans and two by independents.

 

Democrats were about to lose their seat in Missouri just as Republican candidate Todd Akin, who was set to win the race, caused an ambarrassment with a TV interview in which he said that women's biological defenses prevent pregnancy in cases of "legitimate rape". 


היא הייתה "סוס מת" עד פליטת הפה שלו. מקסקייל (משמאל) ואייקן ממיזורי (צילום: AP)

Todd Akin and Clair McCaskill (Photo: AP)

 

As a result, underdog Clair McCaskill took his place. Current polls predict she is expected to return to Capitol Hill.

 

An exciting race is expected in Ohio where Democratic candidate Sherrod Brow, who is regarded a friend of Israel's, will battle for a seat against his Jewish rival Josh Mandel.

 

In Wisconsin, former Governor Tommy Thompson, who served as US Secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush, will face off against Tammy Baldwin. 


תהפוך לסנאטורית ה-1 שהיא לסבית מוצהרת? בולדווין (מימין) ותומפסון מוויסקונסין (צילום: רויטרס)

Tommy Thompson and Tammy Baldwin.(Photo: Reuters)

 

Baldwin has a history of statements that have been perceived as problematic for Israel and though Democratic sources recently said she supports Israeli interests, her state has a large Arab community and left-wing tendencies. If elected, Baldwin will become the first openly gay senator.

 

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill upgrading US–Israel security relations in a 411:2 vote.

 

In an extremely polarized Congress, Israel was almost the only issue political rivals agreed on. Jerusalem enjoyed wall-to-wall support, from Jewish Democrat Barney Frank to Republican Trent Franks, an Evangelist from Arizona.

 

But Israel is set to lose several important friends, namely Josef Lieberman who will not be running again, and Arizona's Republican Senator Jon Kyl.

 

In California a rare battle will take place between two Jewish representatives – Howard Berman and Brad Sherman - as a result of demographic changes forcing them to compete against each other.

 

The next Congress will include 60 new members, presenting Israel with the task of familiarizing them with Israel, its importance to the US and educating them about conflicts in the Middle East.

 

 

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