Control of House of Representatives is still up for grabs but Democrats face increasingly tough path to majority

Both parties still have a chance to control the House next year. Republicans appear to have the easier path to victory, but keeping their majority in line might be harder than winning it

Andrew Feinberg
Washington, DC
,Eric Garcia
Monday 14 November 2022 16:39 GMT
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Six days after polls closed in the US midterm elections, vote-counting in tight races means it is still possible for the Democrats to stun the world by retaining control of the House of Representatives when Congress convenes on 3 January.

It’s also still possible that Republicans will earn the 218 votes needed to sweep into power.

Of the 435 seats in the lower chamber, the GOP has already laid claim to 212 of them, while Democrats have already been declared the victors in 204 contests.

And of the 29 seats that remain undecided, the GOP needs to win only seven more to eke out a bare majority.

Most election forecasters in the US have predicted that the Republicans will indeed take control of the House, but getting there won’t be so easy.

Over the weekend, Democrats won Washington’s 3rd District after Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez beat Republican Joe Kent, who had beaten incumbent Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler in the primary. Ms Herrera Beutler was one of 10 Republicans who voted to impeach former president Donald Trump.

But Republicans flipped Oregon’s 5th District when Lori Chavez-DeRemer beat Jamie McLeod-Skinner, who had beaten Representative Kurt Schrader in the Democratic primary.

Of the undecided districts that remain, approximately nine of those are considered toss-ups, which means forecasters have given both parties an equal chance of winning.

Yet Democrats currently lead in five of those contests so far. They would need to pull ahead in all of them, as well as turn their fortunes around in a handful of districts where Republicans currently lead, to defy expectations to stay in the majority. And although the Republicans are far more likely to pull off an overall win in the end, it might yet be smaller than the five-seat margin Democrats have had to deal with since the 117th Congress opened in 2021.

That’s bad news for the man who has led the House GOP for the last two Congresses, minority leader Kevin McCarthy of California.

While his counterpart on the Democratic side, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is famous for keeping her members in line when it comes to voting on big-ticket items such as president Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law or the Inflation Reduction Act, Mr McCarthy has never wrestled complex legislation through the House with just a small number of votes to spare.

What’s more, the House Republican Conference he could end up leading as speaker will be rife with Trumpian extremists who have built their careers on pillorying GOP leaders who cooperate with Democrats on anything, even must-pass bills to fund the government or prevent the US from defaulting on sovereign debt and blowing up the world’s economy.

A one-seat majority would be even more of a nightmare for the GOP leader, because it would place each one of his members where West Virginia senator Joe Manchin spent the last two years: empowered to block any piece of legislation they dislike for any reason.

Already, members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus have made clear to Mr McCarthy that they plan to extract costs from him before they’ll support his bid to become speaker, should the GOP take the majority.

But even if they do, it won’t be known for some time.

Most of the seats that remain up for grabs are in California, which for years has conducted elections largely by mail.

It might take days – or weeks – to determine whether Mr McCarthy’s conference will have the 218 members it needs to control the agenda for the next two years.

But even if it does, he might end up regretting it.

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