WASHINGTON - Control of Congress in sight, Democrats ousted Montana GOP Sen.
Conrad Burns on Wednesday and pinned their hopes of seizing power in the Senate
on a triumph in Virginia. The party looked to widen its margin of victory over
Republicans in the House.
In an all-around banner election year for Democrats, voters frustrated about
the direction of the country toppled Republicans at all levels of government in
a searing rebuke of the status quo.
"It was a thumpin,'" President Bush
told reporters at a White House news conference. "It's clear the Democrat Party
had a good night."
Democrat Jon Tester, left, and friend, Democratic Party
activist, Joe Lamson, share a bear hug after Tester declared victory in
his election battle for the Senate seat held by incumbent Republican
Conrad Burns in Great Falls, Mont., Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2006.
The incumbent, who spoke of spending his political capital after his
re-election triumph two years ago, acknowledged, "As the head of the Republican
Party, I share a large part of the responsiblity."
With power on Capitol Hill tilting, Bush faced the reality of at least half
of Congress in the opposition's hands for the final two years of his presidency.
He announced that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would step down as
Democrats have demanded.
The war in Iraq, scandals in Congress and declining support for Bush and
Republicans on Capitol Hill defined the battle for House and Senate control,
with the public embracing the Democrats' call for change to end a decade of
one-party rule in Washington.
"This new Democratic majority has heard the voices of the American people,"
said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat in line to become the nation's
first female speaker, adding that Americans placed their trust in Democrats. "We
will honor that trust. We will not disappoint."
With the GOP booted from power after a 12-year House reign, lame-duck Speaker
Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., announced he will not run for leader of House
Republicans when Democrats take control in January.
"Obviously I wish my party had won," Hastert said in a statement that added
he intends to return to the "full-time task" of representing his Illinois
Her position atop the House all but assured, Pelosi said it may take "a
couple of weeks" to determine the final division of power in the Senate but said
that no matter the outcome "the numbers picked up by the Senate bode very well"
for the Democratic agenda.
By early afternoon, Democrats had captured 50 Senate seats, including
Montana, and Republicans held 49. The battle for power came down to Virginia,
where Democrat Jim Webb, a former Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan, had a
small edge over GOP Sen. George Allen.