KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Dems Retain Control Of The Senate; Rape, Abortion Comments Dash GOP Chances In Indiana, Missouri

Victories in high-profile races -- including those in Virginia, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and New Mexico -- helped Democrats keep control of the upper chamber. At the same time, the GOP maintained its majority in the House.

The Washington Post: Democrats Hold On To Senate Majority; Key Wins For Kaine In Va., Warren In Mass.
Still, a bare majority for Democrats offers them the chance to control the chamber's agenda and committee structure. With that edge comes new leverage in negotiations over the nation's most difficult problems, including fiscal issues that must be addressed even before the next Senate takes office. With the GOP retaining control of the House of Representatives, Democrats needed to hold the Senate as a legislative ally to a reelected President Obama (Helderman, 11/6).

The Wall Street Journal: Democrats Rack Up Wins To Keep Senate Majority
Democrats kept control of the Senate by winning a series of high-profile races, giving them a continued stronghold in Washington and disappointing early Republican hopes of retaking the chamber (Bendavid, 11/7).

NPR: Republicans Keep The House; Democrats To Retain Senate
Republicans have easily maintained their hold on the House, while missteps from Tea Party favorites helped Democrats retain a majority in the Senate. That means the two chambers of Congress remain deeply divided, with prospects for agreement on such big ticket items as deficits, tax rates and climate change unclear (Johnson, 11/6).

Meanwhile, controversial comments by two GOP Senate candidates - Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock - about rape and abortion contributed to victories by incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind. - 

Politico: Abortion, Rape Controversy Shaped Key Races
Two Republicans who made widely criticized remarks about abortion and rape lost their Senate elections Tuesday, the result of a massive backlash by female voters in states where Republicans should have won handily. Rep. Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana each made deeply controversial remarks about rape that played a significant role in shaping their public image, resulting in losses that make it highly unlikely that the Republicans could win control of the Senate (Haberkorn, 11/6).

The New York Times: Turnaround In Missouri As Incumbent Keeps Seat
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill won a second term on Tuesday, beating Representative Todd Akin in a remarkable turnaround for a lawmaker once believed to be the Senate's most vulnerable Democratic incumbent. … Ms. McCaskill painted Mr. Akin as an extremist, highlighting statements by him and his votes on things like Social Security, federal school lunch subsidies and the definition of rape. She tried to portray herself as a bipartisan moderate, and vastly outspent Mr. Akin on ads. Mr. Akin sought to link Ms. McCaskill as closely as possible to President Obama, who has been unpopular in Missouri. He highlighted Ms. McCaskill’s early support of Mr. Obama, and her votes in favor of the health care law and the stimulus package (Eligon, 11/7).

Bloomberg: McCaskill Defeats Akin To Keep Missouri Senate Seat
Missouri Democrat Claire McCaskill defeated Republican Representative Todd Akin to win a second U.S. Senate term. The race was turned upside down Aug. 19 when Akin, 65, said in a television interview that "legitimate rape" rarely results in pregnancy. The remark prompted party officials, including Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, to urge the six-term congressman to leave the race. It was a political gift to McCaskill, 59, who had been trailing Akin in polls (Hunter, 11/6).

NBC News: Rape Remarks Sink Two Republican Senate Hopefuls
Democrats prevailed against Republicans in two U.S. Senate races in which abortion and controversial remarks about rape played a pivotal role. U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri — who set off a firestorm after using the phrase "legitimate rape" — and Indiana State Treasurer Richard Mourdock — who said, “even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen” — were projected to lose their Senate races, NBC News reported on Tuesday. Their Democratic  rivals, Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Indiana U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, are the projected winners (Black, 11/7).

The Washington Post: GOP's Akin, Mourdock Lose Senate Elections
Democrats scored decisive Senate wins in Missouri and Indiana after candidates supported by the tea party and evangelical Christians made controversial remarks on rape, pregnancy and abortion that appeared to cost them the support of more-moderate voters in their party (Jaffe, 11/7).

Other Democratic Senate winners include Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin and Martin Heinrich -

The New York Times: Warren Defeats Brown In Massachusetts Senate Contest
She cast herself as a fighter for the middle class and a champion of women’s causes. In her closing message to voters, she said Mr. Brown occasionally cast good votes but he was unreliable because he had voted against equal pay for equal work, health insurance coverage for birth control and a Supreme Court nominee who supported abortion rights (Seelye, 11/6).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Baldwin Defeats Thompson To Win Wisconsin Senate Seat
Mr. Thompson painted Ms. Baldwin a supporter of tax increases and burdensome environmental regulations. Mr. Thompson also tagged Ms. Baldwin as a big-government liberal, noting she said that she was "for a government takeover of health care." Ms. Baldwin labeled Mr. Thompson an ally of big-money interests who would undermine social programs like Medicare. She pounced on Mr. Thompson for saying at a Tea Party meeting, "Who better than me to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?" Mr. Thompson later explained that he only meant that he wanted to reform Medicare to protect it for current and future senior citizens (Hughes, 11/7).

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Baldwin Defeats Thompson In Hard-Fought, Contentious Senate Race
Democrat Tammy Baldwin emerged victorious over Republican Tommy Thompson in a hard-fought and bitter race for U.S. Senate that drew national attention and tens of millions of dollars in outside spending. ... The race centered primarily on health care and the economy, with the clearest difference over the Affordable Care Act. Thompson vowed to work to repeal it and Baldwin supports the law, also known as Obamacare. On Medicare, Thompson gravitated to a plan that would allow retirees to opt into the private health care plan offered to federal employees while Baldwin would keep the system intact, despite projections that it is running out of money (Bergquist, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire: Heinrich Wins New Mexico Senate Race
Mr. Heinrich and Ms. Wilson clashed over taxes, regulation, energy, and the role of government, drawing sharp contrasts on almost every issue. Mr. Heinrich called for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and couples making more than $250,000 a year. He said tax increases had to be part of the answer to reducing the deficit and criticized Ms. Wilson for supporting the Bush tax cuts. Ms. Wilson favored a one-year extension of the Bush tax cuts, giving Congress time for Congress to overhaul the tax system. She said the Bush tax cuts helped the economy. Ms. Wilson called for repealing Mr. Obama's signature healthcare law. Mr. Heinrich voted for the measure, which requires individuals to carry health insurance (Hughes, 11/7).

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