Republicans narrowly take control of the House of Representatives and form a divided government

It wasn’t the red wave many top Republicans predicted, but the GOP has picked up enough contested seat victories to gain control of the House of Representatives, according to the Associated Press. With some races still not called a week after Election Day, Republicans have won at least 218 seats and will take over the chamber next year, with GOP leaders facing a setback for failing to deliver in that , which many saw as a favorable political environment for their party.

The potentially single-digit margin ushers in a new era of divided government in Washington. Before the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats knew that historical trends would see the party win seats without power. House Democrats’ razor-thin five-seat majority, coupled with a significant number of veteran retirements, prepared them for an uphill battle to stay in power. Yet despite these historic headwinds, Democrats performed much better than expected in this year’s midterms and maintained control of the Senate.

A Republican House is likely to clash with a Democratic Senate on most issues in 2023, with bitter battles over basic functions like government funding threatening to cripple Washington.

Hoping to capitalize on voter frustration over rising food and gas costs, GOP candidates framed the election as a referendum on President Joe Biden and his party’s rule in both the White House and Congress. But voters in Exit polls said other issues, such as abortion rights and protecting democracy, were factored into their decisions at the ballot box. The New York and Florida redistribution also helped the GOP overcome lackluster results in most races classified as toss-ups.

The last time the president and top congressional leaders were from different parties was in 2019, when Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections, two years after former President Donald Trump was elected president. A Republican majority in the new House of Representatives will mean President Biden’s legislative agenda is essentially dead unless he can find bipartisan support for some narrowly drafted proposals. Biden’s focus over the next two years of his presidency will likely be devoted to defending his notable achievements, such as a bill to reduce prescription drug prices and investing hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change. GOP lawmakers have already said they want to roll back some of Biden’s programs or invalidate many of them.

The Biden White House will also face an onslaught of investigations into a variety of issues. Senior GOP members on the House Oversight and Judiciary Committees have previously announced they will investigate the business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter Biden, the president’s border policies, the origins of the coronavirus and the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. However, because the margin is so small, more moderate Republicans could press to withdraw some of the probes and instead focus on issues that show a GOP chamber can govern.

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New House Speaker, new agenda

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is poised to take the gavel as speaker in January when the new Congress is sworn in and the entire chamber votes on the top position, which is second only to the presidency after the runner-up stands president. McCarthy is a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump and will chair a GOP conference with many members largely loyal to Trump.

But while McCarthy is on track to win an internal ballot for the post this week, he doesn’t now have the 218 votes he’ll need in the Jan. 3 public vote when the new Congress elects a speaker.

McCarthy first ran as spokesperson for retiring Speaker John Boehner in 2015. But he abruptly withdrew from the race, a sign that he realized he lacked the votes. He then served as House No. Two Paul Ryan at the leadership table and has since developed close ties with many of the Conservatives who derailed his original bid for the top spot. McCarthy is said to be adept at building personal connections at his conference after years of campaigning across the country raising money for GOP candidates. But he has not made a big name for himself as a legislator.

McCarthy and top GOP leaders unveiled their agenda in September, dubbed “America’s Commitment.” It focuses on broad goals in four areas: economics, security, personal liberties and government accountability.

Rep Jim. Jordan, who is expected to take over the gavel as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent letters to Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray in the week leading up to the election, outlining long lists of materials the panel searched, and instructed agency heads to preserve materials from further probes in 2023.

Republicans also plan to change House Rules that currently allow proxy voting — a practice Democrats instituted during the coronavirus pandemic. They also promise to remove the magnetometers that were placed at the entrances to the house floor after the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

Questions about the future of Democratic leaders, leftover business

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., 82, has not announced whether she will run for leadership of the House Democratic Caucus. In 2007, Pelosi became the first woman speaker to shake the so-called marble ceiling in Congress. She took the gavel a second time in 2019 after leading her party back to a majority, but said she would live up to a promise that helped her secure votes for Speaker to complete her tenure at the top to limit. Many newer members have expressed support for paving the way for a new, likely younger, Democrat to take the helm of the caucus. Current faction leader, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., is expected to run for the post of minority leader if Pelosi decides to retire.

But the Democrats’ strong performance in the midterm elections has frozen any move to replace Pelosi. She says some of her peers are urging her to run for the top tenure again and that the attack on her husband Paul Pelosi about 10 days before the election will influence her decision.

Before Republicans take control of the chamber, Congress is already preparing for a lame duck session expected to last through the end of the year. Leaders hope to strike a bipartisan budget deal to fund government agencies for the remainder of the fiscal year and avoid a possible government shutdown. Pelosi also hinted that she would like Congress to raise the debt ceiling to avoid contentious debates and the threat of a default early next year.

Democratic leaders also plan to pass legislation clarifying how Congress will certify presidential election results with a revision of the Electoral Count Act, a law first enacted in 1887. The confusion over the law’s terms was exploited by Trump and his allies on January 6, 2021, and lawmakers say the new law is needed to prevent another attack on the Capitol.

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