WASHINGTON - With Republican control of both houses of Congress assured but narrow, the prospect for another contentious two years on Capitol Hill seems likely whether Vice President Al Gore or Gov. George W. Bush of Texas emerges from the Florida recount as the next president.
A Gore victory would mean another four years of divided responsibility between the executive and legislative branches, as has existed since 1980, when President Jimmy Carter finished his one term with a Democratic Congress behind him.
A Bush election would give Republicans their first control of both the White House and Congress in 46 years, since President Dwight D. Eisenhower's first term.
In either case, the closeness of the party alignment - possibly 50-50 in the Senate if Bush becomes president, 51-49 if Gore is elected, and perhaps a nine-seat Republican edge in the House - raises the prospect of continued conflict and stalemate.
The uncertainty of the Senate party breakdown results from two factors. The first is an undecided close race in Washington state between Sen. Slade Gorton, a Republican, and former Rep. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat.
The other is the Democratic loss of the seat of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut if he becomes vice president. The state's Republican governor, John G. Rowland, would then be expected to appoint a Republican to the Senate vacancy.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle predicted yesterday that Cantwell would win, and he included her in a Democratic total of 50 Senate seats. Also, he did not deduct the Lieberman seat from that total. If Cantwell were to lose and the Gore-Lieberman ticket win, the Senate lineup would be 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats, still a net gain of two Democratic seats for the next Congress.
In any case, Daschle held out hope at a Capitol Hill news conference for a new bipartisan spirit in the Senate, while making clear that he intended to pursue such Democratic issues as an increase in the minimum wage, gun control and campaign finance reform.
"Every one of our candidates ran on these issues," Daschle said. "Every one has strong bipartisan support, and I look forward to working with Congress and the next president on these issues."
Daschle said that "inclusion" was a key to Democratic cooperation in the next Senate, and the lack of it in the current Congress, he said, was why the Republicans "had little to show" for their efforts. If the party lineup in the Senate turns out to be 50-50, he suggested, "it should be 50-50 in committees."
Sen. Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that despite his role as a record fund-raiser for Democratic Senate candidates, he would push hard for campaign finance reform, including free television time for federal candidates and a ban on unregulated "soft" money.
He brushed aside reminders that three Democratic Senate winners or prospective winners-Cantwell, an Internet executive; Mark Dayton, a hotel magnate in Minnesota; and Jon S. Corzine of New Jersey, who made his fortune on Wall Street - all poured millions of their own wealth into their successful campaigns.
They were "dealing with the reality of campaign finance laws as written," Torricelli said.
With the current Senate lineup of 54 Republicans and 46 Democrats, the Democrats needed a net pickup of five for control. They took five and possibly six Republican seats - in Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and possibly Washington state - but lost two of their own, in Nevada and Virginia, and possibly the Lieberman seat in Connecticut.
In the House, the current Republican lead of 222 seats to 209 for the Democrats, two independents and two vacancies appears to have shrunk slightly, to 220-211, with two seats still undecided and two remaining seats held by independents. Though the Republican edge was narrowed, the party will have held both houses of Congress for four consecutive sessions for the first time since 1920.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said of the modest Democratic pickup, which was short of the eight seats needed to take over: "House Democrats have lost their once-in-a-generation chance to win back control of the House."
Since 1998, Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, the Democratic leader in the House, had worked tirelessly to achieve that goal, which would have made him Speaker.
In the one House race spotlighted more than any other because of the Republican incumbent's role as a manager in the impeachment of President Clinton, Rep. James E. Rogan of California was defeated by state Sen. Adam Schiff, a Democrat. Both parties had poured money into the campaign, making it the most expensive House race ever.
Speaker Dennis Hastert, in an interview with the Associated Press, pledged cooperation with the Democrats and attributed the Republicans' success in maintaining House control to their role in balancing the budget, paying down the national debt and defending local public control of education. He also took credit for setting a more reasonable tone after his predecessor, Newt Gingrich.
"I've tried to make the House work," Hastert said. "I think that's what the people want. A lot of people who were shrill aren't there anymore."
Although the clear-cut victory of Hillary Rodham Clinton in New York over Rep. Rick A. Lazio was the most highly publicized Senate race, making her the first wife of a sitting president elected to public office, the most dramatic outcome was in Missouri. There, the name of the late Gov. Mel Carnahan, a Democrat who was killed in a plane crash last month, drew more votes than Sen. John Ashcroft, the Republican incumbent.
The Democratic governor who succeeded Carnahan has announced that he will appoint the late governor's wife, Jean, to hold the seat until a special election in 2002.
A Gore loss in the presidential election would impose a particularly difficult burden on him as the departing president of the Senate. It would fall to him to open the electoral college ballots in January and announce the election of the man who would have defeated him, George W. Bush.
The same fate befell then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon in 1961, when it was his task to open the ballots of the 1960 election and declare the election of the man who had bested him, John F. Kennedy.
* Denotes incumbent
x Denotes winner
x-Ruth Ann Minner, Dem...191484...59%
John Burris, GOP...128436...40%
x-Frank O'Bannon, Dem *...1215363...56%
David McIntosh, GOP...897546...42%
x-Bob Holden, Dem...1152211...49%
Jim Talent, GOP...1130963...48%
x-Judy Martz, GOP...207740...51%
Mark O'Keefe, Dem...192527...47%
x-Jeanne Shaheen, Dem *...275908...49%
Gordon Humphrey, GOP...242724...43%
x-Mike Easley, Dem...1468445...52%
Richard Vinroot, GOP...1300212...46%
x-John Hoeven, GOP...157059...55%
Heidi Heitkamp, Dem...128241...45%
x-Michael Leavitt, GOP *...422357...56%
Bill Orton, Dem...320186...42%
x-Howard Dean, Dem *...147105...50%
Ruth Dwyer, GOP...110941...38%
x-Gary Locke, Dem *...1021310...58%
John Carlson, GOP...702598...40%
x-Bob Wise, Dem...320044...50%
Cecil Underwood, GOP *...301333...47%