Fierce battle in the US: Republicans won the people, Democrats hold the Senate

While the party's lead is fragile, it is enough to delay President Joe Biden's agenda for the next two years

A week after the mid-term elections, Republicans secured the 218 seats needed for a majority in the lower house of Congress, reports the American partner of the BBC – CBS News.

The Associated Press, New York Times, and other media outlets made the announcement Wednesday after days of watching Republicans inch closer to securing a majority in the House of Representatives.

While the party’s lead in the House of Representatives is fragile, it is enough to delay President Joe Biden’s agenda for the next two years.

Kevin McCarthy, the House Republican leader, noted the result. However, the Democrats will retain control of the upper house, the Senate. The new Congress will convene in January.

After a tense campaign defined by inflation, rhetoric about rising crime, the destruction of abortion rights and continuing threats to democracy, voters delivered a resounding verdict.

The election result will give Republicans leverage to force Democrats to cut spending and allow them to launch investigations into the administration of President Joe Biden and his family. With their control of the Senate, Democrats will still be able to confirm judicial and executive nominees.

But losing the House will make it nearly impossible for them to pass any meaningful legislation on voting rights, police reform, abortion access, and other issues they failed to act on when they controlled both chambers and the White House.

Republicans, who had hoped to regain control of both chambers, fell short of expectations in last week’s midterm elections.

But on Wednesday, they won the seat they needed for their majority in the House of Representatives when in California’s 27th District.

Mr. McCarthy, who was chosen by rank-and-file Republicans on Tuesday as their nominee to replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi as the next speaker of the House, said the House was “officially flipped.”

“Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to provide it,” the California congressman tweeted Wednesday night.

To be elected speaker, the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives must win the support of a majority of the 435 members of the entire House.

But Ms. Pelosi signaled that she would not relinquish the presidency, pledging in a statement Wednesday night that her party would put “strong pressure on the slim Republican majority.”

Don’t expect compromises

In recent decades, Congress and the White House have managed to act on common legislative priorities during periods of divided control (remember Social Security reform in the 1990s and more recently to alleviate the COVID-19 pandemic). But that’s rare, says Sarah Binder, professor of political science at George Washington University.

“Things happen,” says Binder, “but the intensity of partisanship makes it much more difficult to pass laws under a divided government.”

Experts expect Republicans to block plans by Biden and Democrats to tackle climate change, codify abortion rights, reform police, protect transgender youth, and fight voter suppression.

“On many levels, they’re going to try to put the Biden administration on the defensive and show their base that they’re fighting on their behalf,” said Fiery, a lobbyist who spent 15 years in the House Republican leadership.

Biden would still have the final say on any federal abortion legislation.

After the Supreme Court’s June 24 decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Democrats raised the alarm that Republican-led states were beginning to ban abortions. But at the federal level, strategists and academics say it’s unclear what the Republican-majority House of Representatives will do about it; any attempts to introduce a national ban will be strongly rejected by Senate Democrats and Biden.

“As long as there’s a Democrat in the White House, I think it’s unlikely that there will be significant conservative action on abortion,” said Eric Schickler, a professor of political science and co-director of the Institute for Government Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “This is an issue that Biden would strongly oppose using the veto, and the need for 60 votes in the Senate would make it really difficult to pass anything.”

After previously saying the issue should be up to the states, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham introduced a bill in September that would ban abortions in the US at 15 weeks of pregnancy.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy previously said he would support a national ban on 15-week abortions, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has repeatedly rejected the idea, saying the issue should be left up to the states.

“McConnell doesn’t want to do anything about abortion,” said Fairey, a Republican strategist. “He is determined to oppose Lindsey Graham’s bill.”

At the same time, Sragow said, he can see Republicans trying to restrict abortion to prevent Democrats from focusing on issues that affect the lives of more Americans, such as good-paying jobs, safe neighborhoods, and good schools for their kids.

“The more Democrats talk about abortion, the more they don’t talk about the everyday issues that concern voters,” Sragow said. “I’m not saying abortion isn’t a very, very important issue. I’m saying it’s not the issue that most voters make up their minds about.”

In a speech to reporters at the White House the day after the election, Biden said he was willing to compromise to work with House Republicans, but said he would not “under any circumstances” support cuts to Social Security or Medicare.

“I have a pen with which I can veto,” Biden said. “I don’t have to weigh in on whether we’re going to keep funding the infrastructure law or whether we’re going to keep funding the environment.”

Whatever Trump does, he will continue to be a distraction

The new balance of power in Congress will help determine how Biden will be viewed in the 2024 presidential election. Without control of the House of Representatives, he will look hurt as he and Senate Democrats battle House Republicans and struggle to make progress on their pre-election promises, says Saratov.

But each of the parties will be able to argue that if they had full control over the government, they could do much more.

“Ironically for Biden, having a Republican Congress as a foil isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because [he] really won’t be accused of not doing a lot of work,” Schicker said, “and he’ll be able to point things out, which he has stopped from happening, and which could happen if the Republicans gain unified control in 2025.”

For former President Donald Trump, who announced on Tuesday that he will run in 2024, the GOP’s victories in the House of Representatives can encourage him, even though many of the candidates he supported lost, leaving Republicans with much -a slimmer majority than they expected. As the results piled up on election night, Trump said that if Republicans do well, he should get “all the credit,” but if they lose, he shouldn’t be “blamed at all.”

“Donald Trump is a distraction and will continue to be,” Sragow said, “but at the end of the day, what he does or doesn’t do and the consequences of him running or not running, no one knows.”

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