Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Republicans regained control of the House of Representatives by pulling out a victory in a midterm election that many expected to be a red wave of victories, but which instead turned into little more than a trickle.

Still, the party finally won its key 218th seat in the lower house of Congress, wresting control from Democrats and setting the stage for a showdown with Joe Biden over the next two years of his presidency.

The result marks the end of Democrat Nancy Pelosi’s honorable tenure as Speaker of the House and is likely to hand the gavel to Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who has announced his intention to take over.

Control of the House of Representatives is crucial because it will allow Republicans to launch a series of congressional investigations ranging from Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan to more overtly politicized investigations into the government’s actions during the coronavirus pandemic and the business activities of Biden’s son Hunter.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives is likely to be a tumultuous affair because its projected slim majority means it will only take a few rebels to thwart any legislation — effectively giving a lot of power to nearly every member. With a Republican right full of fringe figures like Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene, that could be a recipe for chaos and the promotion of extremist beliefs and measures.

Biden and his party entered Election Day largely expecting to take a beating from voters angry about high inflation that has caused misery for millions of Americans struggling with bills and rising prices. Republicans doubled down on this by running campaigns that stoked fears of violent crime and portrayed Democrats as far-left politicians out of touch with voters’ concerns.

But Democrats have fired back, pointing to the extremist nature of many Republican politicians, especially the cadre of far-right figures backed by Donald Trump, and warning of the threat they pose to American democracy. They were also fueled by the ongoing backlash over the loss of federal abortion rights, which were stripped from them by the conservative-dominated Supreme Court.

The result was a shock: Democrats held on in vast swathes of the country, and while in some parts – like Florida – Republicans won, in many other parts their candidates were defeated. High-profile Trump-backed candidates like Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastrian in Pennsylvania lost their races.

Meanwhile, the performance of Republicans in the Senate was worse. Democrats retained control of the upper chamber when their incumbent senator was projected as the winner in Nevada on election night Saturday. The remaining Georgia seats will be decided in a runoff between incumbent Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger Herschel Walker in early December after neither topped 50% of the vote.

If Warnock wins, Democrats will enjoy a one-seat majority, 51-50, in the 100-seat Senate, a small but significant improvement over the current 50-50 balance that will continue if Walker wins, with Kamala Harris and still as a tie-breaker for the Democrats in the vice president’s traditional role as president of the senate.