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Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Obama takes midterm hit (Result will not impact continuity in Sino-US ties)

The Republicans achieved sweeping midterm election wins on Tuesday, seizing control of the US Senate in a blow to President Barack Obama that will limit his political influence and curb his legislative agenda in his last two years in office, said analysts.

Republicans won in places where Democrats were favored, like a Senate race in North Carolina, pulled out victories where the going was tough, like a Senate battle in Kansas, and swept a number of governors' races in states where Democrats were favored, like Obama's home state of Illinois.


They also strengthened their grip on the House of Representatives, and when the new Congress takes power in January, will be in charge of both chambers of Congress for the first time since 2006.

Obama will hold a news conference on Wednesday afternoon, the White House said. He is likely to address how he plans to work with Republicans.

Obama, first elected in 2008 and again in 2012, called Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress to the White House on Friday to take stock of the new political landscape.

The Republican surge will force Obama to scale back his legislative agenda and limit his ambitions to either executive actions that do not require legislative approval, or items that might gain bipartisan support, such as trade agreements and tax reform.

It will also test his ability to compromise with newly empowered political opponents who have been resisting his legislative agenda since he was first elected.

But Republicans, hoping to win the White House in 2016, will also be under pressure to show Americans they are capable of governing after drawing scorn a year ago for shutting down the government in a budget fight.

Republicans winning control of both chambers of Congress may lead to tougher diplomatic stances. This could include stronger attacks against the Islamic State militants as hawkish Republican Senator John McCain is expected to run the powerful Armed Services Committee when the US Congress convenes in January, said Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in an interview with the Global Times.

"Other issues like the Iran nuclear talks might also be at risk as Republicans have rebuked Obama for being weak," said Ni.

  • As the US is mired in multiple diplomatic dilemmas, including in Ukraine and the Middle East, the new congress might push interventionist policies to counter its waning influence, Shi Yinhong, a professor with the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.

Election Day polling by Reuters/Ipsos found a dour mood among the electorate with less than one-third of voters believing the country is headed in the right direction.

Roughly 40 percent of voters said they approved of the job Obama is doing as president, though they were split over whether they expected the economy to improve or worsen in the coming year.

Directly after the midterm elections, Obama will make a state visit to China from November 10 to 12 when he attends the APEC summit in Beijing. He is also expected to hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping in a relatively informal setting.

Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai told reporters Tuesday that he does not think the election result will influence Sino-US ties, as China policies of the last eight US presidents have been strongly consistent.

"It is hard to expect breakthroughs in the Sino-US relationship, especially where there are differences when Obama's influence has taken such a blow, even if he hopes to," said Shi. "But the two countries will definitely continue cooperating in fields including climate change, nuclear nonproliferation, fighting Ebola and Afghanistan," he added.

  • The White House tried to play down the prospect of sharp changes in strategy after the election, saying Obama would seek common ground with Congress on areas like trade and infrastructure.

Jay Carney, Obama's former spokesman, said he expects Obama to make an "all-out push" on his priorities, regardless of the makeup of Congress.

Source: Reuters-Global Times
5-6/11/14

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