United States Republicans have regained control of the House of Representatives, securing a narrow majority in a midterm election that saw the party fail to meet expectations.
The Associated Press declared Republican Mike Garcia the winner in California’s 27th congressional district Wednesday, giving the GOP 218 seats, the threshold for the majority needed to take over the lower chamber of Congress.
Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will likely become House speaker when the new Congress convenes early next year after his party nominated him to the position on Tuesday. He will replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi who has held the gavel since 2019.
Although the much-anticipated “red wave” of Republican victories did not materialise, Republican candidates were able to gain at least five House seats in the November 8 midterms, wiping out the Democrats’ thin majority.
Democrats were able to flip a few districts, but they suffered overall net losses, narrowly losing key races in New York, Florida and other states. Redistricting after the 2020 Census had given conservatives an edge in several parts of the country.
Even with a less-than-ideal election performance, control of the House will allow Republicans to halt President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda in its tracks. In the US, bills need to pass in both the House and Senate and be approved by the president to become law.
Biden issued a statement congratulating McCarthy and said he is “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families”.
Democrats have retained control of the Senate after vulnerable incumbents in Arizona and Nevada won reelection and a seat flipped in Pennsylvania. They also have a chance to grow their slim majority as a Georgia Senate race heads to a run-off next month.
Controlling the House will allow Republicans to open congressional investigations into perceived wrongdoings by their rivals, including foreign business dealings by the president’s son, Hunter Biden, an issue Democrats dismiss as unfounded.
A Republican House will also almost certainly disband the panel investigating the riot at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, when former President Donald Trump’s supporters ransacked the building in a failed effort to prevent the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.
Civil rights advocates also fear that far-right Republican legislators accused of stoking bigotry and undermining the democratic system, including Congresswoman Majorie Taylor Greene, may be given leadership positions in the new Congress.
But without the Senate, Republicans will not be able to pass their own legislation without Democrats’ help. Moreover, the president can veto bills approved by Congress. Politicians can override the veto by a two-thirds majority in each chamber.
So with this outcome, Washington is heading towards gridlock, and Biden will need to rely on unilateral executive action to advance his policies.