Republicans on Wednesday wrested control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Democrats, networks said, narrowly securing a legislative base to oppose President Joe Biden’s agenda for the final two years of his term – and leaving power in Congress divided.
The narrow Republican majority in the lower house of the US legislature will be far less than the party had hoped for, and Republicans also failed to take control of the Senate in a historically weak performance in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
NBC and CNN projected victory for Republicans with at least 218 seats in the 435-member House of Representatives — the magic number needed to take control. This came a week after millions of Americans went to the polls for the midterm elections, which usually result in a rejection of the party in the White House.
Biden congratulated House Republican Kevin McCarthy “on Republicans winning the majority in the House” and added that he was “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.”
Last week’s vote, he said, was “a strong rejection of voter denialism, political violence and intimidation” and showed “the strength and resilience of American democracy.”
McCarthy tweeted shortly after the projection was called, saying that “Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver.”
The news came a day after former President Donald Trump — who was big during the election cycle and whose support appears to have doomed some of his party’s candidates — announced another run for the White House.
With inflation rising and Biden’s popularity ratings cratering, Republicans had hoped to see a “red wave” wash over America, giving them control of both houses and thus an effective block on most of Biden’s legislative plans.
But instead, Democratic voters — emboldened by the Supreme Court’s repeal of abortion rights and wary of Trump-endorsed candidates openly rejecting the results of the 2020 presidential election — turned out to be in force.
And Republicans lost ground with candidates rejected by moderate voters as too extreme.
A Georgia Senate runoff election set for next month could see Democrats ultimately improve their upper house majority.
The Senate oversees the confirmation of federal judges and cabinet members, and having the 100-seat body in his corner will be a huge boon for Biden.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, McCarthy won his party’s leadership vote by secret ballot, putting him in prime position to be the next speaker, replacing Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
The 57-year-old congressman from California, a senior member of the House Republican leadership since 2014, fended off a challenge from Andy Biggs, a member of the influential far-right Freedom Caucus.
But potential far-right defections could still complicate his path when the House votes in January.
McCarthy now begins what is expected to be a grueling campaign to win the subsequent floor vote on Jan. 3, when the House of Representatives’ 435 newly elected members — Democrats and Republicans — choose their speaker, the third most important political position in the United States after the president and vice president.