Republicans Flip House By Unexpectedly Small Margin

Kevin McCarthy
TPM Illustration/Getty Images

Republicans won back the House Wednesday, but are only on track for a very slim majority.

What was long predicted to be a midterm shellacking in the stylings of the Republican tsunamis of past Democratic-trifecta years of 1994 and 2010 fizzled out to the point that the lower chamber became little more than a tossup. 

Reducing their seat losses in a year where historical patterns and the economic environment all but foretold their doom is not just a moral victory for Democrats. It eases their path to retake the chamber in 2024, and drastically limits what the Republican House can do. A 60-seat majority would be a lot easier for a Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to handle than one that looks like it’ll be in the single digits, pulled to the center by newly minted New York frontline freshmen, and to the right by the likes of Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL).

But we do know what they’ll try to do, at least. Long anticipating a win, Republicans have been candid with their intentions. They’ll use their new committee perches to launch investigation after investigation into everything from Hunter Biden to Afghanistan to baseless accusations of fraud in the 2020 election. 

They’ll try to hold the debt ceiling hostage — reportedly in exchange for cuts to Medicaid and Social Security — threatening to force the United States to default on its debt and sparking a global financial crisis. The danger of such a gambit is all the greater as the House coalition is increasingly in the thrall of hard-right actors. 

They’ll move to impeach President Joe Biden and, likely, assorted Cabinet members. Some Republicans have admitted that they haven’t settled on a reason for impeachment yet, but revenge for then-President Donald Trump’s impeachments seems to be enough for now. Even if they manage to wrangle the necessary House votes, the Senate will not remove the various Democrats from office, due to the two-thirds majority needed to convict. 

House Republicans will likely shut down the Jan. 6 Committee, and, per comments from McCarthy, may block once-bipartisan measures like aid for Ukraine. 

They’ll also attempt to pass a raft of legislation, from culture war red meat like anti-trans bills to various measures to slash the social safety net. They may even take a stab at a national abortion ban. 

The Democratic Senate will act as a backstop to these bills, preventing Biden from having to take tough vetoes: imagine a radical Republican Congress tying some crucial aid package to Medicaid cuts or an abortion ban or a national “Hunter Biden sucks” day.

Democrats in the Senate will also counter-program the Republicans’ investigations with those of their own, while confirming judges and executive branch nominees apace. Should a Supreme Court vacancy arise, they’ll be able to fill it.

Legislating will grind to a halt, as both chambers pass bills that the other will block.

But aside from still maintaining their ability to keep confirming judges, Democrats may find another glimmer of hope in losing the lower chamber: there’s something to be said for governing against a foil. The 2024 election will eclipse 2022 in importance and direness. A Republican House that Democrats can cast as radical, vengeful and obstinate might be a blessing in disguise when it comes time for Biden and the Democrats to sell themselves to voters for another term.

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