Republicans won control of the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, returning the party to power in Washington and giving conservatives leverage to disrupt President Joe Biden’s agenda and spur a wave of investigations. But a threadbare majority will pose immediate challenges for Republican leaders and complicate the party’s ability to govern.
More than a week after Election Day, Republicans secured the 218th seat needed to wrest Democratic control of the House. The full reach of the party’s majority may not be clear for several more days, if not weeks, as votes in competitive races are still being counted.
But they are on track to cobble together what could be the party’s narrowest majority of the 21st century, rivaling 2001, when Republicans held just a nine-seat majority, 221-212 with two independents. That’s a far cry from the landslide Republicans predicted ahead of this year’s midterm elections, when the party hoped to reset the agenda on Capitol Hill by capitalizing on economic challenges and Biden’s lagging popularity.
Instead, Democrats showed surprising resilience, clinging to moderate suburban districts from Virginia to Minnesota to Kansas. The results could complicate House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s plans to become Speaker of the House, as some conservative members have questioned whether to endorse him or impose conditions on his support.
The narrow margins have turned Republican politics upside down and led to finger pointing at what went wrong. Some in the Republican Party have blamed Donald Trump for the worse-than-expected result. The former president, who announced a third run for the White House on Tuesday, elevated candidates during this year’s primary that they fought to win during the general election.
Despite the disappointing performance of the Republican Party, the party will continue to wield remarkable power. Republicans will seize control of key committees, giving them the ability to shape legislation and launch investigations into Biden, his family and his administration. There is particular interest in investigating the foreign business dealings of the president’s son, Hunter Biden. Some of the more conservative lawmakers have raised the possibility of impeaching Biden, although that will be much more difficult for the party with a slim majority to achieve.
Any bill that emerges from the House could face great difficulties in the Senate, where Democrats won a slim majority on Saturday. Both parties are hoping for a Senate runoff on Dec. 6 in Georgia as their last chance to bolster their ranks.
With such a slim majority in the House, there is also the possibility of legislative chaos. The dynamic essentially gives an individual member enormous influence over what happens on camera. That could lead to particularly difficult circumstances for Republican leaders as they try to win support for mandatory measures that maintain government funding or raise the debt ceiling.
The fact that the GOP failed to win more victories (they needed a net gain of five seats to win a majority) was especially surprising because the party ran for election benefiting from congressional maps that were redrawn by Republican legislatures. History was also on the side of the Republicans: the party in the White House had lost seats in Congress during virtually the first half of each new president’s term in the modern era.
The new majority will give way to a new group of leaders in Washington. If elected to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the top job, McCarthy would lead what is likely to be a rowdy conference of House Republicans, most of whom are aligned with Trump’s brand of politics. . Many Republicans in the incoming Congress rejected the results of the 2020 presidential election, despite allegations of widespread fraud being refuted by courts, election officials and Trump’s own attorney general.
McCarthy won the nomination for House speaker on Tuesday, and a formal vote will take place when the new Congress convenes in January.
“I am proud to announce that the era of one-party Democratic rule in Washington is over,” McCarthy said after winning the nomination.
Republican candidates pledged during the campaign to cut taxes and strengthen border security. Republican lawmakers could also withhold aid to Ukraine while it wages war with Russia or use the threat of default on the nation’s debt as leverage to extract cuts from entitlements and entitlements, though all of those activities will be more difficult given how small the Republican majority can be. end up being
As a senator and then vice president, Biden spent his career crafting legislative compromises with Republicans. But as president, he was clear about what he saw as the threats posed by the current Republican Party.
Biden said the midterms show voters want Democrats and Republicans to find ways to cooperate and govern in a bipartisan fashion, but he also noted that Republicans failed to get the electoral surge they had been betting on and vowed: “I’m not going to change anything in a fundamental way.”
The AP VoteCast, a broad survey of the national electorate, showed that high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democracy had weighed heavily on voters. Half of voters said inflation was a significant factor, with groceries, gas, housing, food and other costs skyrocketing in the past year. Slightly fewer, 44 percent, said the future of democracy was their top consideration.
Contrary to GOP expectations, Biden did not entirely take the blame for inflation, with nearly half of voters saying higher-than-usual prices were due more to factors beyond his control. And even though the president drew criticism from a pessimistic electorate, some of those voters backed the Democratic candidates.
Democrats have also likely benefited from the anger over the Supreme Court’s overturning of the landmark Roe v. Wade who cemented a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. Michigan voters voted to amend their state constitution to protect abortion rights, while the much more reliable Kentucky Republican rejected a constitutional amendment declaring there is no right to abortion.
Overall, 7 in 10 voters said the high court ruling that struck down the 1973 decision enshrining abortion rights was a major factor in their midterm decisions. VoteCast also showed that the reversal was generally unpopular. About 6 in 10 say they are angry or dissatisfied. And approximately 6 out of 10 say they are in favor of a law that guarantees access to legal abortion throughout the country.