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Can the Democrats and Republicans Work Together?
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Can the Democrats and Republicans Work Together?

Can the Democrats and Republicans Work Together?

Can the Democrats and Republicans Work Together?
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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/6454504/6454505" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Sen. Lincoln Chafee pauses while giving a concession speech. i

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) pauses while giving a concession speech Tuesday night in Warwick, R.I. Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse won the contest. Darren McCollester/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Darren McCollester/Getty Images
Sen. Lincoln Chafee pauses while giving a concession speech.

Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) pauses while giving a concession speech Tuesday night in Warwick, R.I. Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse won the contest.

Darren McCollester/Getty Images

The Democrats have won the House of Representatives, but what's not known yet is whether they will succeed in capturing the Senate.

The Senate may end up evenly split, with Vice President Cheney casting the deciding vote. With such a slim margin, does it matter who has 51?

In fact, it does. The Senate majority leader determines the agenda. For instance, the majority leader gets to schedule the votes, which determines what issues come to the floor, and, to some degree, which issues pass.

The Democrats, having picked up a possible 25 to 30 seats, now have the power to set the agenda in the House. And it should be fascinating to watch. With more moderate Democrats and fewer moderate Republicans in the House, will Democrats be able to hold their troops together, work across the aisle as needed and pass legislation?

The loss in this election of a whole group of moderate Republicans, such as Rhode Island's Sen. Lincoln Chafee and Iowa's Sen. Jim Leach, will make it hard for Democrats to reach across the aisle in either chamber and find a Republican who can effectively negotiate with them.

Democrats are also going to have to do a good bit of work inside their own caucus. Claire McCaskill, newly elected to Missouri's Senate seat, is example of how many Democratic representatives now in the House are considerably more moderate than the liberal-leaning caucus as a whole.

But presumed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has made it clear that she is going to hold the Democratic caucus together, and it's her goal to include the moderates in every way. After all, the Democrats wouldn't have this new majority without the new moderates.

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