Ryan says Trump ‘earned a mandate’ with election win

Alan Fram
Associated Press

Washington — Republicans will command the House for two more years as Donald Trump’s astounding White House triumph helped them keep their record-sized majority nearly intact. “He just earned a mandate,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who now faces working with a president with whom he had a turbulent relationship during the campaign.

Democrats had envisioned that voters repulsed by Trump comments about women and Hispanics could provide potentially big Election Day gains in suburban and ethnically diverse areas. Instead, the Democrats suffered a dispiriting day with just modest pickups, a maximum of nine, as the GOP swept to control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

That was well below the 30 seats Democrats needed to capture House control. Republicans currently hold a 247-188 majority, including three vacant seats, the most the GOP has had since their 270 in 1931.

“He turned politics on its head,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters gathered Wednesday in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Ryan credited the president-elect with helping carry Republicans into Congress and promised to work “hand-in-hand” with him on a GOP agenda.

By Wednesday, Republicans had at least 238 seats — guaranteeing an extension of their six-year run of House control — and just six of their incumbents had lost. The GOP retained seats in Minnesota, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin that Democrats had coveted.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the two parties “have a responsibility to come together and find common ground.” In a written statement, she suggested cooperating with Trump on infrastructure projects and said she will “pray for his success.”

In Florida, freshman GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo won a race that underscored the limits of Trump’s damage to Republicans. With around 7 in 10 of the Miami-area district’s voters Hispanic, Democrats targeted it and the race became one of the country’s most expensive with an $18 million price tag. But Curbelo distanced himself from his own party’s nominee and prevailed.

Rep. John Mica, 73, a 12-term veteran from the Orlando area, was criticized by GOP strategists for a lackluster campaign and lost to Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a political neophyte. Democrat Charlie Crist, once the state’s Republican governor, defeated Rep. David Jolly in a St. Petersburg district redrawn to favor Democrats.

Just one Democratic incumbent had lost by Wednesday, Nebraska’s Brad Ashford.

Moving into 2017, Congress faces a fresh round of budget legislation plus the need to renew the government’s borrowing authority or face an economy-jarring federal default. Those are never easy to pass.

Ryan, 46, has said he wants to be speaker in the new Congress and has expressed confidence in doing so. But he is not immune to ire from the Freedom Caucus, which chased former Speaker John Boehner from Congress last year, and other Republicans upset over his frigid treatment of Trump.

A handful of disgruntled conservatives could block Ryan from the 218 votes he’d need to retain his post. That would be an embarrassing setback for the 2012 vice presidential candidate, who may harbor White House aspirations.