GOP keeps House majority, Democrats gain two seats

With at least two seats still undecided at press time, it appears that Republicans will keep their House majority, but that their margin will shrink by two seats.

Republicans carried into Election Day a 223-210 margin--with two independents .

If Reps. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., and Rush Holt, D- N.J., hold on to win reelection, the split in the 107th Congress would be 221-212, with each party claiming a dependable ally from the House's two independents.

However, Republicans were claiming a win in the Holt race, which appears headed for a recount, and disputing calls by news organizations that former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., had ousted GOP Rep. Steve Kuykendall.

Republicans also asserted that Democrat Rick Larsen's reported victory for an open seat in Washington remained too close to call.

It appears that only six incumbents went down to defeat Tuesday. They included 10-term Rep. Sam Gejdenson, D-Conn., who lost to Republican Robert Simmons, a former CIA official and Senate aide. Gejdenson was the ranking member on the House International Relations Committee. Rep. David Minge, D-Minn., was toppled after four terms by businessman and political novice Mark Kennedy. Minge was a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Coalition.

Four Republican incumbents apparently were defeated, including Kuykendall and California Reps. James Rogan, who lost to state Sen. Adam Schiff, and Brian Bilbray, who was defeated by Assemblywoman Susan Davis. Rep. Jay Dickey, R-Ark., was defeated by state Sen. Mike Ross.

In the open seat races, GOP state Sen. Mike Rogers captured the House seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Debbie Stabenow for her successful Senate run. Overall, it appears each side captured six open seats that had been in the other party's column.

Meanwhile, leaders from both sides of the aisle stressed their willingness to pursue bipartisan solutions to the big ticket items on the nation's agenda.

"My advice to all of us, if Republicans control all three branches, is that the American people want us to govern," said House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts of Oklahoma.

He predicted that estate tax and marriage penalty repeal would advance with bipartisan majorities and said Republicans would move to settle long-running disputes over prescription drugs and a patients' bill of rights.

If Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore wins the White House, Watts said, "He'd have to roll up his sleeves and get to work and get out of the campaign mode."

A top House Democratic leadership aide agreed that the tight division in both the House and Senate should send both sides to the center.

But this source added: "[The vote] is further proof of what we've been saying, that people want bipartisan cooperation. Our position on the big stuff is going to be about the same. I hope the Republicans are willing to show some more cooperation."