U.S. Democrats are going to hold narrow control of the Senate when the new Congress takes office in January, but control of the House of Representatives remained uncertain Sunday, five days after last week’s election.
Republicans are holding a 211-204 edge in the House with elections for 20 seats yet to be decided in both parties’ quest for a 218-seat majority in the 435-member lower chamber.
Most U.S. political analysts are predicting that when the remaining votes are counted in the uncalled House races, which could take several days, Republicans are likely to win a very narrow majority, perhaps with 219 to 222 seats to 216 to 213 for the Democrats, well below Republican leaders’ preelection predictions.
Democrats secured a 50th seat in the 100-member Senate late Saturday as embattled Nevada Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, considered the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbent seeking reelection, narrowly edged past Adam Laxalt, a former attorney general in the western state. She won by half a percentage point.
“We beat the odds,” Democratic President Joe Biden told reporters in Cambodia, where he attended a summit of Asian nations before heading to Bali, Indonesia for a summit of the world’s 20 largest economies. “I feel good, and I’m looking forward to the next couple years.”
Before last Tuesday’s election, U.S. political pollsters and analysts had widely predicted a sweeping “red wave” of Republican wins in the House and a possible takeover of the Senate as well.
Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, assured of remaining as the chamber’s majority leader, called the results a “vindication” for Democrats and their agenda.
He said Republicans had turned off voters with extremism and “negativity,” including some candidates’ erroneous insistence that the 2020 election had been stolen from then-President Donald Trump. “America showed that we believed in our democracy,” Schumer told reporters.
Republicans mostly stayed mum about the Senate outcome, although as it became clear in recent days that no big sweep of Republican victories was going to materialize, some party officials were already casting blame. This included targeting Trump for his support of candidates, many of whom lost, that was based largely on whether they agreed with his claim that he was cheated out of another four-year term.
Trump has signaled he plans to announce his 2024 presidential candidacy Tuesday.
Shortly after Cortez Masto’s victory became apparent, Republican Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said on Twitter, “The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new.”
Cortez Masto’s victory assures Democrats the same number of seats as in the current Senate, which now has a 50-50 split between Republicans and Democrats. Yet to come is a December 6 runoff election in the southern state of Georgia, with Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock facing off against his Republican opponent, Herschel Walker, a former college and professional football star recruited for the race by Trump.
In the current Senate, Vice President Kamala Harris, as the chamber’s presiding officer, has occasionally cast tie-breaking votes supporting the Democratic agenda. A Warnock victory in the Georgia contest would add to the Democratic majority, giving them a majority on committees that shape legislation, or, if Walker wins, preserve the political status quo.
A Republican victory in the House would give Republicans the speakership to lead the chamber, with California Congressman Kevin McCarthy, now the Republican minority leader, already calling fellow party members asking for their support.
If Republicans control the House, a Republican, McCarthy or another party lawmaker, would replace the current speaker, Democratic Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, and under the U.S. Constitution, would become third in line to the U.S. presidency after the vice president if both of the top two positions became vacant and needed to be filled.
A narrow edge for Republicans would likely give the party entrée to investigate Biden administration missteps during the first two years of his presidency, including last year’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing influx of undocumented migrants across the southwest U.S. border with Mexico.
Legislation in a Republican-controlled House can simply be ignored by the Schumer-led Senate if Democrats don’t agree with such proposals.
On CNN’s “State of the Union” show, Pelosi declined to predict that Democrats would overcome the current Republican edge in the House race to reach the 218-seat majority, but said, “We’ll see. There are so many votes out” to be counted yet.
But she said, “Two months ago, who would have predicted that this red wave would turn into a little tiny trickle? We’re still alive; the races are close. We still think we have a chance.”