WASHINGTON — Republicans narrowly seized control of the Senate on Wednesday, ousting Democrats in Georgia and Missouri and giving President Bush’s legislative agenda a major boost in the next Congress.
By winning their 50th seat in Missouri, the GOP was ensured control of the chamber next year because Vice President Dick Cheney will cast tie-breaking votes.
Democrats took just one seat from Republicans when Arkansas Attorney General Mark Pryor, the son of former Sen. David Pryor, defeated incumbent Sen. Tim Hutchinson.
In Georgia, Republican Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated moderate first-term Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, a triple amputee from the Vietnam War, after chiding him for opposing President Bush’s plan for creating a new Department of Homeland Security.
The GOP also could take control of the lame-duck session of the current Congress, which convenes next week to tackle unfinished budget business and perhaps other legislation because of Rep. Jim Talent’s victory in Missouri.
Talent could be quickly sworn into office after defeating Democratic Sen. Jean Carnahan. She was appointed to the seat after her husband, Mel Carnahan, was elected in 2000, three weeks after he was killed in a plane crash. That would give the GOP at least 50 seats in Senate returning next week — enough for control because of Cheney.
Rep. John Sununu was victorious for the GOP in New Hampshire, retaining a Republican-held seat that Democrats had high hopes of winning. He defeated Democratic Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, despite a lack of help from many conservatives bitter over his primary defeat of Republican Sen. Bob Smith.
In Colorado, incumbent Republican Sen. Wayne Allard held off lobbyist and former U.S. Attorney Tom Stickland in a rematch of their race six years ago.
The triumph came on a night that began with Democrats clinging to a one-seat margin, and it meant they will have to relinquish the majority they have held since Vermont Sen. James Jeffords abandoned the GOP in June 2001.
With at least 47 senators, Democrats will still be able to use filibusters — procedural delays — to kill Republican initiatives because such roadblocks need only 41 votes to succeed.
Even so, the GOP’s capture of the Senate denied Democrats their major remaining source of power. Republicans already control the White House and they recaptured their House majority Wednesday.