IT WAS AN ELECTION sponsored by America's mega-rich to the tune of an astronomical $4 billion, bannered by wall-to-wall-to-wall negative ads on nightly newscasts that didn't even bother to cover the races.

When the votes were finally counted it was the kind of result that provokes a primal scream in the vein of the Who's 1971 classic "Won't Get Fooled Again."

Meet the new gridlock, to paraphrase that song.

Same - more or less - as the old gridlock.

Aided by a favorable map of which seats were up and America's fatigue with a Year 6 president, the Republicans regained control of the Senate last night - meaning a GOP-led Congress for the first time since 2006. The final size of the new conservative legislative majority depended on several late races but networks predicted at least 51 Republican Senate seats shortly before 11 p.m.

The more-red Senate map elevates a new majority leader, Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, which means that political stalemate will have a new face. The filibuster will still be in play - only now it will be Senate Democrats blocking right-wing pet causes such as the repeal of Obamacare.

Meanwhile, President Obama is grasping for a veto pen he's hardly used before now, while tea partiers are boning up on impeachment rules. It's all but certain that any unexpected Supreme Court vacancy won't be filled before 2017 . . . at best.

"My sense is that, if we add a Republican Senate, I'm not convinced there's going to be any more or any less legislative gridlock than what we have now," said James Peterson, Lehigh University associate professor of English and director of Africana studies, as the votes were tallied.

Most expensive election

What's remarkable is how much money was spent in 2014 to largely preserve a status quo that has left the American electorate angry and frustrated, with as much as 71 percent telling pollsters that the nation is on the wrong track.

Much of the $4 billion - a record for U.S. elections, even with the presidency not on the ballot - came in the waning days from anonymous billionaires and corporate sources, taking advantage of rulings like the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision that allowed a flood of big money.

What's truly amazing is that these dollars flowed to just a handful of competitive races - with experts saying that fewer than two dozen of the 435 congressional races across the country were actually competitive. That's thanks to sophisticated computer mapping and the gerrymandering of district maps, mostly to benefit incumbents.

Republicans, who control a majority of statehouses and drew most of these maps, won more seats in 2012 despite getting 1.1 million fewer aggregate votes, and history likely repeated.

So what can a cynical nation expect between now and November 2016, when voters select the 45th president?

Gridlock warning: Robin Kolodny, a Temple University political scientist who focuses on Congress, said the Senate has a number of tools to stall the political process - not just the filibuster, in which the minority party needs just 40 votes to stop most legislation, but also "holds" on key matters that can be placed by individual senators. Plus there's the Senate's clogged calendar of matters like treaties and confirmation hearings that the House doesn't have to deal with.

The result is likely that the GOP and McConnell probably won't pass much more legislation than outgoing Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democrats did - and the new Senate will still be far short of the 67 votes needed to override any vetoes from the Obama White House.

"What happens is that the House is a little more quicker on the trigger to pass something that's a little more 'out there,' " Kolodny said. Such votes - repealing Obamacare more than 40 times, for example - died in a Democratic Senate, but they're just as likely to expire under McConnell and the GOP.

Immigration: Experts agree that if anything is going to change in America's ailing body politic, the bellwether issue is immigration reform. Some - but hardly all - Republicans think the party needs to compromise on issues like a path to citizenship for at least 12 million undocumented immigrants in order to woo alienated Hispanic voters as the 2016 election looms.

"The calculus has to change" for the GOP, argued Lehigh's Peterson, who said Republican bigwigs are fearing a "juggernaut" from Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016 unless the party can somehow broaden its appeal past older white men. On the flip side, many expect that if the tea-party flank continues to thwart legislation, Obama may proceed with an executive order that could allow as many as 4 million of the undocumented to stay here legally. Such a bold move would likely trigger a constitutional confrontation and could lead to . . .  

Impeachment: This is the issue that would show that the extreme right wing of the GOP has grabbed away the congressional steering wheel, as polls show it would be a slab of political red meat to the party's rank-and-file voters. "If Republicans do capture the Senate, there's no more excuses about impeachment," conservative activist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told a radio show last week - ignoring that it would take 67 Senate votes to remove Obama.

Climate change: This was one of the dogs that didn't bark in the 2014 election, even after liberal billionaire Tom Steyer spent an estimated $70 million to promote the issue and a new U.N. report Sunday warned of "severe, pervasive, and irreversible" global warming that will worsen without environmental policy changes.

Robert Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University, said a GOP-led Congress is more likely to try to stop Obama's Environmental Protection Agency from imposing new regulations on power plants than endorsing any additional steps to reduce U.S. carbon pollution. Said Brulle: "I am not an optimist about us doing anything - I think it looks bad for political action on climate change in any way."

The Supremes: Stop, in the name of stalemate, expecting anything less than the political donnybrook of the century if any of the nine current Supreme Court justices is unable to complete his or her term between now and the end of 2016. Although Democrats changed the rules to prevent filibusters on judicial nominations, it's unlikely that any remotely liberal Obama nominee could get confirmed by a GOP Senate. If any of the current five conservative justices leave the bench, the result would be a 4-4 split and a high court unable to reach major decisions.

2016: Remember, much of the congressional inaction in recent years was aimed - unsuccessfully - at thwarting Obama's 2012 re-election bid. With Clinton currently holding a substantial lead in early 2016 polls, will the GOP continue to be the "Party of No," or will it pass selective legislation to prevent her from running against a "Do-Nothing Congress"?

One area of potential common ground, experts say, would be a deal to cut corporate tax rates in exchange for closure of some loopholes. That would likely anger the left and perhaps inspire a Democratic presidential primary fight.

But mostly it's the Who that echoes on the morning after America's most expensive election: "The world looks just the same/And history ain't changed."

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