Democrats will stay in control of the US Senate next year after Democratic US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto won re-election in Nevada, poll predictions show, handing a major victory to President Joe Biden.
Still, Republicans remain close to winning control of the US House of Representatives as officials continued counting ballots cast in Tuesday’s US midterm elections.
Cortez Masto has narrowly defeated Republican challenger Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
With Ms Masto’s victory on the heels of Democratic Senator Mark Kelly winning re-election in Arizona late on Friday, Democrats will control at least 50 Senate seats, with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break ties in the 100-member chamber.
The Senate is split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans. The newly elected Senate will be sworn in on January 3.
If Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock were to win the December 6 Georgia runoff election against Republican challenger Herschel Walker, that would expand Democrats’ majority to 51-49.
That, in turn, would give Democrats an additional edge in passing a limited number of controversial bills that are allowed to advance with a simple majority of votes, instead of the 60 needed for most legislation.
Democratic Senators Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona are “swing” votes who have blocked or delayed some of President Biden’s major initiatives, including expansions of some social programs.
But with 51 Democratic seats in the upcoming Congress, Mr Manchin’s and Ms Sinema’s influence would be slightly diluted.
It was still unknown which party will hold the majority in the US House of Representatives for the next two years.
Republicans continued to have an edge, but returns were still flowing in for several races, including many in liberal-leaning California.
It could take several days or more before the outcome of enough House races are known to determine party control of that 435-seat chamber.
The midterm elections saw many Republican candidates echo former President Trump’s false contention that he lost the 2020 election to Biden because of massive voter fraud.
No winner was projected yet in the race for Arizona governor, where Democrat Katie Hobbs holds a narrow lead over Republican Kari Lake.
In the race for Nevada’s secretary of state, Democrat Cisco Aguilar defeated Republican Jim Marchant, a noted supporter of Mr Trump’s false claim of 2020 voter fraud.
A Democratic-controlled Senate will provide insurance to President Biden that his nominees to fill dozens of federal judgeships will win confirmation under the guidance of Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.
That would be particularly crucial to Democrats if a seat on the US Supreme Court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, were to open up in the final two years of President Biden’s term.
When the outgoing Senate returns on Monday for a post-election work session that could run through late December, Mr Schumer aims to immediately confirm two more federal judges awaiting final votes.
Hovering over the 2022 midterm elections all year has been Mr Trump, who used his continued popularity among hard-right conservatives to influence the candidates the Republican Party nominated for congressional, gubernatorial and local races.
With Republicans’ lacklustre performance on Tuesday – even if they do win narrow majority control of the House – Mr Trump has been blamed for boosting candidates who were unable to appeal to a broad enough electorate.
Both Mr Laxalt and Georgia’s Mr Walker won Mr Trump’s backing. Republican losses in either of these two races could further dampen Mr Trump’s popularity as advisers say he considers announcing a third run for the presidency in 2024.
House Republicans, if they pull out a victory, have pledged to try to roll back President Biden victories on battling climate change and want to make permanent a series of 2017 tax cuts that will expire.
They also have planned investigations into President Biden administration activities and probes of the president’s son, who has had business dealings with Ukraine and China.