The Democratic Party's dramatic victory in the US House of Representatives is expected to be a net plus for Taiwan, as Taiwan's supporters seek to exploit the split between the House Democratic majority and the Republican White House in the wake of congressional elections in which most backers of Taiwan retained their seats.
"Democratic control of the House is good for Taiwan," said Coen Blaauw, a veteran Washington lobbyist for the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, who feels the Democratic majority will be more willing than their Republican counterparts to buck US President George W. Bush and the
State Department in pushing for legislation about Taiwan opposed by the administration.
Most of Taiwan's biggest backers in the House retained their positions despite earlier fears that some could be defeated.
Three particular races attracted the most attention among Taiwan's supporters: representatives Sherrod Brown and Steve Chabot in Ohio and Senator George Allen in Virginia, all co-chairmen of Taiwan Caucuses in their chambers.
Republican Chabot, who is one of the most consistent champions of Taiwan in the House, scored an easy victory despite fears that he might have been brought down by scandals in his state's Republican party.
Democrat Brown, buoyed by the Republican state woes, upset Senator Mike DeWine to win a seat in the upper chamber. Brown has been the leading congressional promoter of Taiwan's right to participate in the WHO and its annual meeting in Geneva.
Brown's presence should give a boost to Taiwan in the Senate, which has been hesitant in recent years to move legislation of benefit to Taipei. And if he decides to join the Senate Taiwan Caucus, which has been less than active since it was formed three years ago, he could be a voice for greater activism.
In Virginia, Allen, a co-chairman of the Senate caucus, was running neck-and-neck with his Democratic opponent Jim Webb and the final results appeared heading for a recount. Allen had been an early favorite to retain his seat and be a possible 2008 presidential contender, but his campaign was tarred after he made a remark considered racist and was accused of other racist remarks in his career.
On a broader level, Taiwan's supporters are hoping the party split between the new House and the administration will give them some openings to promote Taipei's interests.
Republicans, who have been reluctant in recent years to take action at odds with an administration of their own party, were more actively supportive of Taiwan when former president Bill Clinton was in the White House, they recall.
They point to the fight over former president Lee Teng-hui's (
In recent years, however, while the House has given overwhelming approval to some pro-Taiwan legislation, other bills of equal importance were bottled up in committee and never even made it to the floor for debate or a vote, at a time when Bush has had to increasingly rely on China's cooperation in such crucial areas as North Korea and Iran.
Taiwan's backers are also looking at Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who will become the new House speaker.