|The results of US midterm election
[ 2006-11-15 09:19 ]
Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Steve
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Our subject this week is the midterm election
Elections are often about local issues. But two national issues drove the
Democrats' return to power in Congress for President Bush's last two years in
office. Voters said they were heavily influenced by the war in Iraq and by
wrongdoing in Congress.
The day after the elections last Tuesday, the president said it was time for
new leadership at the Pentagon, the Defense Department headquarters. Mr. Bush
announced the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Mr. Rumsfeld has
served as defense secretary since Mr. Bush came into office in 2001.
Mr. Bush said he recognized that many Americans voted to signal their
displeasure with the lack of progress being made in Iraq.
The president has nominated Robert Gates to become the new defense secretary.
The position requires Senate confirmation. Mr. Gates directed the Central
Intelligence Agency during the presidency of Mr. Bush's father, George H.W.
Bush. Mr. Gates is currently president of Texas A&M University.
The Democrats' victory marks the first time their party will control the
House of Representatives since 1994. Republicans have also controlled the Senate
for most of that time, but that too will change.
Democrats look set to control the narrowest of majorities in the Senate: 51
And that majority will include the last two states decided. Both had very
close races. In Montana, Republican Senator Conrad Burns lost to Jon Tester, an
organic farmer who was president of the state Senate. And in Virginia, it was
Democrat Jim Webb over Republican Senator George Allen.
Mr. Webb is an honored Vietnam War veteran and former
Republican who served as secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan. He
is also a best-selling author of novels. This was his first attempt at elected
office. His opposition to the war in Iraq was an important part of his campaign.
A few months ago, Mr. Allen was considered a strong candidate for re-election
in a state where he formerly served as governor. But then he made some damaging
statements that cost him his lead.
On Thursday, two days after the election, George Allen accepted defeat. Now
he will have to think about his chances as a possible candidate for the
Republican presidential nomination in two years.
In Tennessee, Democrat Harold Ford, Jr., a Congressman, lost a close Senate
race to Republican Bob Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga. Mr. Ford would
have been the first black Senator from the South since the reconstruction period
after the Civil War.
In New York State, Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton won a second term easily
over her Republican opponent John Spencer. The wife of the former President Bill
Clinton is seen as a leading choice for the Democratic nomination for President
Republican Senators who kept their offices include Olympia Snowe in Maine and
Richard Lugar of Indiana. Craig Thomas was re-elected in Wyoming and Texas
voters re-elected Kay Bailey Hutchison to her Senate seat.
If the Senate is ever divided fifty-to-fifty on a vote, then the deciding
vote goes to the Vice President of the United States. Under the Constitution,
the Vice President acts as President of the Senate.
The newly elected Congress opens in January. Representative Nancy Pelosi of
California is to become the next speaker of the House. She will be the first
woman in American history to hold the powerful position, and the first
Italian-American speaker. The current speaker is Dennis Hastert of Illinois.
Nancy Pelosi represents a district in San Francisco. She comes from a
political family. Her father served as mayor of Baltimore, Maryland.
President Bush and Representative Pelosi have promised to work with each
other. He invited her to have lunch at the White House last Thursday. But Mrs.
Pelosi has called Mr. Bush things like "dangerous" and "incompetent."
Many conservatives see her as too liberal for the good of the country. But
Nancy Pelosi says Americans made their voices heard in the election. She says
Americans want a new direction -- most clearly in Iraq.
But she says the Democrats will also work for a more honest and open Congress
and for other issues important to Americans. She says the Democrats will move
quickly to pass a number of measures in the first 100 hours of the new
There is no single Democratic Party plan for what to do about Iraq. But one
thing most Democrats could agree on was their criticism of Donald Rumsfeld.
Critics say he failed to provide enough troops and to take other steps that
might have avoided the current situation in Iraq.
Americans also voted in state and local elections. A majority of states will
have Democratic governors for the first time in twelve years. Twenty-eight
states will have Democratic governors -- the same number as now have Republican
Among the new governors will be Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. Mr. Patrick
will be the second black governor elected in the United States in more than a
Democrats also made gains in state legislatures.
One bright spot for the Republicans was the re-election of Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger in California. A year ago, his popularity was down. Many
Californians saw him as too conservative. But since then, the former movie star
has shown greater willingness to compromise with Democrats in the legislature.
He has taken popular steps like working to fight global warming.
Last Tuesday Mr. Schwarzenegger easily defeated his Democratic opponent,
state treasurer Phil Angelides.
Voters in almost forty states decided more than 200 ballot measures. Voters
in seven states passed measures to ban same-sex marriage. But one state,
Arizona, became the first to defeat such a measure.
Voters in South Dakota defeated a ban on most abortions in that state. And
voters in Missouri approved a measure to protect stem-cell research there.
On an economic issue, six states passed measures to raise the minimum wage
for workers in the lowest-paid jobs. The newly elected Democrats in Congress say
they will work to raise the federal minimum wage.
And in Michigan, voters agreed to bar the use of affirmative-action programs
in public schools and government agencies. Critics say programs designed to help
women and minorities are unfair to others.
President Bush traveled extensively in the last days before the election to
campaign for Republicans. Because of his low approval ratings, though, being
connected with the president was not always seen as a good thing. Yet members of
Congress, as a group, also faced low approval ratings.
In the weeks before the election, for example, there was the news about Mark
Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida. He wrote sexual messages to young
men who formerly served as pages in Congress. Mr. Foley resigned after the
computer messages became public. A Democrat won his seat in the House.
A Democrat also won the seat that had been held by Bob Ney . Last month, the
Ohio Republican became the first member of Congress to admit selling his
influence to Jack Abramoff, the former lobbyist. Now the six-term congressman
faces a prison term at sentencing in January. Jack Abramoff is already in
Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham, a California Republican, was sent to
prison for taking money from defense companies. His seat went to a Republican in
the election last week.
But in Texas, a Democrat won the seat that had been held by Tom DeLay. Mr.
DeLay resigned as House majority leader earlier this year. He was charged with
violating campaign-finance laws in Texas. He denied the charges but did not seek
re-election to his seat from the Houston area.
There were Democrats in Congress who were also accused of wrongdoing. But on
Election Day, Americans said they were angry with Congress in general and, in
many cases, President Bush as well.
Our program was written by Jerilyn Watson and produced by Mario Ritter.
Transcripts and MP3 files of our programs are on the Web at
voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve Ember.
And I'm Shirley Griffith. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA