WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (Reuters) – Republicans are expected to win a majority in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, paving the way for two years of divided government as President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party controlled the Senate.
The victory gives Republicans the power to rein in Biden’s agenda and to launch potentially politically damaging investigations into his administration and family, though it falls far short of the “red wave” the party had hoped for.
The latest call came after more than a week of counting votes, when Edison Research predicted that Republicans had won the 218 seats they needed to control the House. The Republican victory in California’s 27th congressional district swept the party.
The party’s current house leader, Kevin McCarthy, may have a challenging road ahead as he needs his recalcitrant caucus to rally critical voices, including government and military funding at a time when former president Donald Trump has again launched a candidacy for the White. House.
The loss takes away some of Biden’s power in Washington, but on Wednesday he congratulated McCarthy and said he would work down the aisle to get results.
“The American people want us to do things for them,” Biden said in a statement.
Democrats were buoyed by voters’ rejection of a range of far-right Republican candidates, most of them Trump allies, including Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s Senate and gubernatorial races, respectively, and Blake Masters in Arizona’s Senate race.
Even though the expected “red wave” from House Republicans never reached shore, the conservatives are sticking to their agenda.
In retaliation for two impeachment attempts by the Democrats against Trump, they are gearing up to launch an investigation into Biden administration officials and into the past business dealings of the president’s son, Hunter, with China and other countries — and even with Biden himself.
On the international front, Republicans could try to curb US military and economic aid to Ukraine in the fight against Russian forces.
THE TRIGGER OF INFLATION AND ABORTION
The United States is returning to its pre-2021 power-sharing in Washington, with voters being pulled in opposite directions by two main issues during the midterm election campaigns.
High inflation gave Republicans ammunition for attacking liberals, who won trillions of dollars in new spending during the COVID-19 pandemic. With voters seeing their monthly groceries, gas, and rent bills soar, the desire to punish Democrats in the White House and Congress grew.
At the same time, there was a swing to the left after the Supreme Court ruling in June ended abortion rights, angering a large portion of voters and backing Democratic candidates.
Edison Research found in exit polls that nearly a third of voters said inflation trumped their concerns. For a quarter of voters, abortion was the top concern, and 61% opposed the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade.
In the Los Angeles mayoral race, Edison predicted that Democrat Karen Bass, a top progressive in Congress, would have defeated Rick Caruso, a former Republican billionaire who ran on a platform to reduce crime and homelessness in the city. She has so far received 53% of the vote.
EYES ON THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE
While the midterms were all about elections for the US Congress, state governors and other local offices, hovering above it all was the 2024 US presidential race.
Trump, who remains the party’s top pick for the party’s presidential nomination among Republicans, nevertheless suffered a series of setbacks when far-right candidates he recruited or allied with performed poorly on Nov. 8. Some conservative Republican voters were tired of Trump.
At the same time, Ron DeSantis was rushing to a second term as Florida governor, beating Democratic opponent Charlie Crist by nearly 20 percentage points. Trump reportedly boiled over the high marks political pundits handed out to DeSantis, seen as a potential challenger to Trump in the field of Republican presidential candidates in 2024.
The 2024 election will immediately impact many of the legislative decisions that House Republicans pursue as they flex their muscles with a new-found majority, however small.
They have spoken publicly about seeking cost savings in the Social Security and Medicare safety net programs and implementing permanent tax cuts that were implemented in 2017 and will expire.
Conservatives threaten to hold back a necessary increase in the debt limit next year unless significant spending cuts are made.
“It is critical that we are willing to use the influence we have,” far-right House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry told Reuters last month.
First, the House of Representatives must choose a speaker for the next two years. McCarthy won the support of a majority of his caucus on Tuesday to run for the powerful position to succeed Nancy Pelosi.
With such a narrow majority, McCarthy worked to get pledges from nearly every member of his unruly Republican membership after failing in such an attempt during a 2015 bid. Freedom Caucus members, some four dozen in all, could hold the keys to his victory as speaker, and the viability of his speakership was great.
Reporting by Richard Cowan and Costas Pitas; Written by Richard Cowan; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien
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