Over at the White House, where Republicans rule, George Bush is appealing promptly for peace with Congress. But under the dome of the Capitol, where Democrats call the shots, that may be easier said than done.
Democratic leaders listened carefully Wednesday as the vice president they know well, now the president-elect, urged cooperation between the executive and legislative branches when he enters the Oval Office in just 10 weeks.Bush sounded a note of conciliation as he sought to soothe hard feelings from the bitter campaign while asserting his own new political power.
"I want good and open and friendly relationships with the U.S. Congress. I don't want us to talk at each other (but) to each other," he told supporters who welcomed him back to the capital from his adopted home of Houston, where he watched himself defeat Democrat Michael Dukakis Tuesday night.
"I will try very hard," Bush promised, but as a former Texas congressman he acknowledged he is unlikely to get "everything my way."
Democrats maintained their control of the House and Senate Tuesday, adding slightly to their numbers in each of the chambers. Bush knows that since regaining the Senate from GOP hands two years ago, they largely have pursued their own agenda and that trend is likely to continue.
There is no love between Bush and House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, and Sen. Bennett Johnston, D-La., one of three men vying to lead his party in the other chamber next year, delivered some advice of his own sort Wednesday.
"If he wants confrontation," Johnston said of Bush, "like he did in the campaign, he will get more than he bargained for."
Likely areas of conflict for Bush include dealing with the budget deficit and arranging priorities for future federal spending. The vice president also drew himself a line with his campaign vow of "no new taxes."
Norman Ornstein, a political analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, predicted Wednesday that Bush will have no honeymoon with Congress of the sort other presidents have enjoyed.
"All of a sudden George Bush is no longer a pretender," Ornstein said, "and I don't see anybody saying, "Let's give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Let's help him out."
West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, who won easy re-election but is stepping down as the chamber's Democratic leader in order to run the powerful Appropriations Committee, said he hopes confrontation can be held to a minimum next uear. He noted, however, that he expects his party to keep pushing its own proposals.
Bush insisted he will be able to work with Senate Republican leader Robert Dole of Kansas, who called Bush a liar in the campaign for the GOP nomination and blames the vice presiddnx for not working hard enough to elect senators.
As the last Senate cliffhanger awaited a winner Wednesday, Democrats had 55 seats to the GOP's 44, a gain of one from the end of the 100th Congress.
The outstanding Senate race was a true nail-biter. Conservative Republican Rep. Connie Mack III, grandson of the baseball legend, led by a mere 4,936 votes out of nearly 4 million cast in his race against Democratic Rep. Buddy MacKay to replace retiring Democrat Lawton Chiles. All precincts were in, but 72,000 uncouted absentee ballots held the final verdict.
The House, which adjourned this year with three vacancies and a split of 255 Democrats to 177 Republicans, shaped up as at least a four-seat and possibly a five-seat gain for Democrats. With one race unsettled, the majority had won 261 seats to 173 for the GOP. Republican Rep. Denny Smith of Oregon trailed challenging state Rep. Mike Kopetski by about 1,200 votes.