Bloomberg Tax
Nov. 17, 2022, 6:13 AM

GOP Retakes US House by Slim Margin in Washington Power Shift

Erik Wasson
Erik Wasson
Bloomberg News

Republicans won a narrow House majority that gives them the power to halt President Joe Biden’s agenda, yet their slim margin marked a letdown for a party that had counted on decisive election results as a springboard for the 2024 presidential race.

More than a week after Election Day, the party finally gained the minimum 218 seats needed to control the chamber, the Associated Press reported Wednesday night, when incumbent GOP Representative Mike Garcia defeated Democrat Christy Smith in California. Roughly a half-dozen races still remain undecided.

Despite concerns about Biden’s handling of the economy and the prospects of a recession, voters delivered a split verdict over who was to blame and how much weight to put on issues such as abortion rights and election deniers’ threats to democracy. While giving control of the House to the GOP, they kept the Senate in the hands of Democrats.

US House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican from California, will become majority leader.
Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg

Slender as it is, the House majority hands Republicans control of committees with subpoena authority, allowing them to make good on campaign pledges to investigate Biden’s administration and family, as well as social-media companies that conservatives claim are biased against them.

Republicans also have promised to slash government spending, expand fossil fuel production and extend Trump-era tax cuts on the wealthy. Much of that agenda, however, will be left to wither in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

For businesses, the return of Republicans to control of the House takes the possibility of corporate tax increases favored by Democrats off the table while diminishing the changes of workforce-boosting reforms to legal immigration. But markets may become turbulent in the middle of next year if Republicans carry through on threats to hold the nation’s debt ceiling hostage to force the president to accept spending cuts.

Read more: GOP Congress Takeover Would Stymie Biden, Offer Business a Reset

Biden, on his way back to Washington from the G-20 summit in Indonesia, said he would work with House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy. “I congratulate Leader McCarthy on Republicans winning the House majority, and am ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families,” the president said in a statement.

McCarthy cheered the results, tweeting: “Republicans have officially flipped the People’s House! Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver.”

The GOP has spent the past week brooding over its poor showing in the midterm elections, with some Republicans blaming former President Donald Trump for losses in key races, not only in Congress but in statehouses as well.

Yet even as they chided him for promoting candidates that Democrats beat in Republican-favored races, Trump waded right back in to announce his third run for the White House.

The Senate will remain under Democratic control after John Fetterman flipped a Republican seat in Pennsylvania and incumbents Mark Kelly and Catherine Cortez Masto won re-election in Arizona and Nevada.

The Senate race in Georgia between Raphael Warnock, the Democratic incumbent, and Herschel Walker, the Republican, will be decided in a Dec. 6 runoff. But Fetterman’s win gave the Senate 50 seats, and therefore the majority.

Read more: McCarthy’s Path to House Speaker Complicated by Narrow Majority

Biden’s agenda will still be largely stalled by the GOP House, but their advantage was one of the smallest gained by either party in a midterm election in modern times.

The chair of the right-wing Freedom Caucus, Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, suggested conservatives would use the election results to at least extract promises from McCarthy, including changes in the rules governing how the House is run.

“As a leader in the party, you have a duty to provide a vision that informs voters of what you’re going to do if you win,” Perry said. “I don’t think that vision was adequately provided by multiple folks on the top of our party.”

Since World War II, the party holding the White House has, on average, lost 26 House seats and four Senate seats. Barack Obama’s Democrats lost 63 House seats in 2010 and Trump’s Republicans 40 House seats in 2018.

Read More: Pelosi Era Draws to Close as GOP Flips House, Allies Urge Change

The midterm result could spell the end of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s run as the Democratic Party’s leader in the House, where a new generation of leaders is eager to ascend.

Pelosi, in a statement Wednesday night, hailed her party for having “defied expectations.”

“House Democrats will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden’s agenda — with strong leverage over a scant Republican majority,” she said.

Later, her spokesman, Drew Hammill, tweeted that she would discuss her “future plans” on Thursday.

The new GOP House majority was secured in part by victories in Democratic parts of New York State, where Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the Democratic campaign arm, lost a race for a Hudson Valley seat. An attempt by Democrats to gerrymander New York seats was rejected in court earlier in the year. Republicans also ousted Democratic incumbents in Florida, Iowa, Virginia, New Jersey to pick up seats.

And Republican candidates who joined in Trump’s baseless claims of widespread voter fraud in 2020 and promised to take steps to ensure GOP wins in the future, were roundly defeated.

Read more: Trump Opens Battle of Wills With GOP Starting to Doubt Him

The election ends four years of Democratic control in the House, which saw passage of the largest infrastructure and climate change bills in history, a massive coronavirus stimulus program, an overhaul of the Medicare drug benefit and an historic investment in US semiconductor manufacturing.

Republicans expected voters to punish Democrats with a lost of 60 or more seats as inflation hit 40-year highs and gasoline prices soared. But in the end, just a few Democratic incumbents lost their re-election campaigns.

(Updates with Pelosi to discuss future, in 20th paragraph.)

To contact the reporters on this story:
Erik Wasson in Washington at;
Se Young Lee in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Flavia Krause-Jackson at

John Harney, Wendy Benjaminson

© 2022 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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