WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans won control of the U.S. House on Wednesday, returning the party to power in Washington and giving conservatives leverage to blunt President Joe Biden’s agenda and spur a flurry of investigations. But a threadbare majority will pose immediate challenges for GOP leaders and complicate the party’s ability to govern.
More than a week after Election Day, Republicans secured the 218th seat needed to flip the House from Democratic control. The full scope of the party’s majority may not be clear for several more days — or 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 had just a nine-seat majority, 221-212 with two independents. That’s far short of the sweeping victory the GOP predicted going 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 lagging popularity.
Instead, Democrats showed surprising resilience, holding on to moderate, suburban districts from Virginia to Minnesota and Kansas. The results could complicate House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s plans to become speaker as some conservative members have questioned whether to back him or have imposed conditions for their support.
McCarthy celebrated his party having “officially flipped” the House on Twitter on Wednesday night, writing, “Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver.”
President Joe Biden congratulated McCarthy, saying he is “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.”
“Last week’s elections demonstrated the strength and resilience of American democracy. There was a strong rejection of election deniers, political violence, and intimidation,” Biden said in a statement. “There was an emphatic statement that, in America, the will of the people prevails.”
He added, that “the future is too promising to be trapped in political warfare.”
The narrow margins have upended Republican politics and prompted finger-pointing about what went wrong. Some in the GOP have blamed Donald Trump for the worse-than-expected outcome. The former president, who announced his third White House bid Tuesday, lifted candidates during this year’s Republican primaries who often questioned the results of the 2020 election or downplayed the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol last year. Many of those struggled to win during the general election.
Despite the GOP’s underwhelming showing, the party will still have notable power. Republicans will take control of key committees, giving them the ability to shape legislation and launch probes of Biden, his family and his administration. There’s particular interest in investigating the overseas business dealings of the president’s son Hunter Biden. Some of the most conservative lawmakers have raised the prospect of impeaching Biden, though that will be much harder for the party to accomplish with a tight majority.
Any legislation that emerges from the House could face steep odds in the Senate, where Democrats won the barest of majorities Saturday. Both parties are looking to a Dec. 6 Senate runoff in Georgia as a last chance to pad their ranks.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks with journalists after winning the House Speaker nomination at a House Republican leadership meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)