Republicans, Democrats vie for control of U.S. Congress on Tuesday

Burr shows 2.8-point lead on Ross

Aerial view of Capitol Hill featuring the Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building behind the U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A furious fight for control of the U.S. Congress being waged alongside the White House race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump ends on Tuesday with elections that will help shape the country’s policy decisions for the next two years.At stake is Republicans’ current grip on the Senate and House of Representatives. In order to win control of the Senate outright, Democrats would have to score a net gain of five seats. Republicans currently hold 54 Senate seats to 44 Democratic seats and two independents who align themselves with Democrats.N.C.’s Senate race is among the most closely watched in the nation. According to RealClear Politics, incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr currently has a 2.8-point lead over Democratic challenger Deborah Ross. On Tuesday, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report predicted Democrats would gain five to seven seats. Such a result would leave them short of the 60 votes needed to easily get things done in the Senate, but it would provide a majority.But Democrats worried that the FBI’s disclosure in late October it was reviewing newly discovered emails to see if they pertained to Clinton’s use of a private email server while secretary of state might tip some competitive races toward Republicans.The FBI said Sunday the agency had completed its review of the newly found emails and said it would not change its July finding that no criminal charges were warranted against Clinton.Democrats face a steeper challenge in the House, having to gain 30 seats to win back the majority they last held in 2010. Some analysts have been projecting Democrats could pick up anywhere from five to 20 seats.TIGHT SENATE CONTESTSRepublicans have had control of the 100-seat Senate over the past two years and the 435-seat House of Representatives since 2011. They’ve fought against Democratic President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law, the Affordable Care Act.Republicans have generally pushed for rolling back spending on domestic programs while trying to limit environmental and financial industry regulation.The outcome of the presidential race is expected to have a major impact on the outcome of the congressional campaigns. In recent decades, the party that wins the White House has usually fared better in congressional races, too.For most of the 2016 campaign season, the Senate races have been center-stage, as Democrats fielded some strong challengers to Republican incumbents.Among them are Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander, who is giving Republican Sen. Roy Blunt an unexpectedly stiff challenge, and former environmental official Katie McGinty, who could unseat Republican Sen. Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania.John McCain, the Vietnam War hero and 2008 Republican presidential nominee who has served in the Senate for 30 years, appears headed to re-election in a race that has been unusually competitive for him.A possible 50-50 tie following Tuesday’s elections would mean the next vice president would cast the tie-breaking vote and determine which party controls the Senate.The Senate that will be sworn in on Jan. 3, whether it is held by Republicans or Democrats, will face a weighty decision early on — voting on a U.S. Supreme Court justice to replace the conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who died last February.Since that time, Senate Republicans have refused to consider Obama’s nomination of federal judge Merrick Garland, arguing the next president should pick a nominee for Senate review.Other issues confronting Congress next year include the need to raise U.S. borrowing authority, something some conservative Republicans oppose without substantial budget cuts, and possible approval of free-trade deals with Pacific Rim countries and Europe if negotiations on the latter conclude successfully.