Tue. Dec 6th, 2022

Republicans won control of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, returning the party to power in Washington and giving conservatives leverage to blunt President Joe Biden’s agenda and prompt a series of investigations. But a tattered majority will present immediate challenges to GOP leaders and complicate the party’s ability to govern.

More than a week after Election Day, Republicans secured the 218th seat needed to rid the House of Democratic control. The full extent of the party’s majority may not be clear for several days — or even weeks — as votes in competitive races are still being counted.

But they are on track to cobble together what could be the narrowest partisan majority of the 21st century, rivaling 2001, when Republicans held a majority of just nine seats, 221-212 with two independent candidates. That’s far short of the sweeping victory Republicans had predicted heading into this year’s midterm elections, when the party hoped to reset the agenda on Capitol Hill by capitalizing on economic challenges and Biden’s weak popularity.

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Instead, Democrats have shown surprising resilience, holding on to moderate, suburban districts from Virginia to Minnesota and Kansas. The results could complicate Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy’s plans to become president as some conservative members questioned whether to back him or imposed conditions on their support.

The narrow margins upended Republican politics and prompted finger-pointing about what went wrong. Some in the GOP blamed Donald Trump for the worse-than-expected outcome. The former president, who announced a third bid for the White House on Tuesday, withdrew candidates during this year’s primaries who were battling for victory during the general election.

Despite the GOP’s inconclusive result, the party will still wield considerable power. Republicans will take control of key committees, giving them the ability to shape legislation and launch investigations into Biden, his family and the administration. There is a particular interest in researching the foreign affairs of the president’s son, Hunter Biden. Some of the most conservative lawmakers have raised the prospect of impeaching Biden, although it will be much harder for the party to achieve that with a narrow majority.

Any legislation that makes it out of the House of Representatives could face tough odds in the Senate, where Democrats won the slimmest majority on Saturday. Both parties are looking at the Dec. 6 Senate runoff in Georgia as their last chance to fill their ranks.

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Click to play video: 'US midterms: Democrats predicted to win Senate as some GOP point finger at Trump for losses'


US midterms: Democrats predicted to win Senate as some GOP point finger at Trump for losses


With such a slim majority in the House of Representatives, there is also the potential for legislative chaos. The dynamic essentially gives an individual member enormous influence in shaping what happens in the chamber. That could create a particularly tricky situation for GOP leaders as they try to drum up support for must-pass measures that keep the government funded or raise the debt ceiling.

The GOP’s failure to post more wins — they needed a net gain of five seats to take the majority — was especially surprising because the party entered the election using congressional maps redrawn by Republican legislatures. History has also been on the side of the Republicans: the party that holds the White House has lost congressional seats during nearly every first presidential term in the modern era.

The new majority will lead to a new set of leaders in Washington. If elected to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the top job, McCarthy would lead what is likely to be a tumultuous conference of House Republicans, many of whom are committed to Trump’s outspoken policies. Several Republicans in the incoming Congress have rejected the results of the 2020 presidential election, even as courts, election officials and Trump’s own attorney general have refuted claims of widespread fraud.

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McCarthy won the nomination for House Speaker on Tuesday, with a formal vote coming 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.

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Republican candidates promised during the campaign to cut taxes and strengthen border security. GOP lawmakers could also withhold aid to Ukraine while it is at war with Russia, or use the threat of a national debt default as leverage to extract cuts from welfare spending and entitlements — though any such efforts will be tougher given how small the Republican majority ends up being be.

As a senator and then vice president, Biden spent his career making 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 midterm elections show that voters want Democrats and Republicans to find ways to work together and govern in a bipartisan way, but he also noted that Republicans have not achieved the electoral gains they were betting on and vowed: “I’m not going to change anything on any fundamental way.”

AP VoteCast, a broad survey of the national electorate, found that high inflation and concerns about the fragility of democracy weighed heavily on voters. Half of voters said inflation has had a significant impact, with groceries, gasoline, housing, food and other costs all jumping over the past year. Slightly less – 44% – said that the future of democracy was their primary concern.

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Donald Trump announces his candidacy for the presidency of the USA in 2024


Contrary to GOP expectations, Biden has not fully taken the blame for inflation, with nearly half of voters saying higher-than-usual prices are more caused by factors beyond his control. And despite the president enduring criticism from a pessimistic electorate, some of those voters supported Democratic candidates.

Democrats also likely profited from anger over the Supreme Court overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade decision that enshrined a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Voters in Michigan voted to amend the state constitution to protect abortion rights, while a Kentucky Republican far more reliably rejected a constitutional amendment declaring no abortion rights.

Overall, 7 in 10 voters said the High Court ruling overturning the 1973 decision guaranteeing abortion rights was an important factor in their midterm decisions. VoteCast also showed that the reversal was generally unpopular. About 6 in 10 say they are angry or unhappy about it. About 6 in 10 say they support legislation guaranteeing access to legal abortion nationwide.

© 2022 The Canadian Press