Updated Nov 16, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Republicans narrowly capture House after Democrats held Senate

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) addresses a crowd during an election night watch party at the National Ballroom at The Westin, City Center on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022 in Washington, DC.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy addresses a crowd during an election night watch party at the National Ballroom at The Westin, City Center on Wednesday, Nov. 9 in Washington, D.C. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Republicans will flip control of the U.S. House after four years out of power in the chamber, winning a narrow majority as Democrats will keep control of the Senate.

Driving the news: Republican wins in California and New York helped the party clinch the 218 seats needed for a House majority, the AP reported Wednesday.

Data: AP; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

Why it matters: The newly divided Congress gives lawmakers in the narrow House GOP majority leeway to block legislation and launch a battery of investigations, including some targeting President Biden.

  • House Republicans will also control a key lever in the process for crafting the federal budget and hold crucial leverage in spending fights with the Biden administration.

Yes, but: A narrow House majority will present a difficult situation for party leadership.

  • The speaker will have to keep practically the entire conference together on key votes. An unexpected death or resignation could fundamentally alter the chamber’s balance of power.
  • House Republicans on Tuesday voted 188-31 by secret ballot to nominate House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for speaker of the House, Axios reported.

What they're saying: "Tonight it’s official: One-party Democrat rule is FINISHED. We have fired Nancy Pelosi," McCarthy tweeted on Wednesday night.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who's due to make an announcement about her future on Thursday, said in a statement that House Democrats "defied expectations with an excellent performance."
  • "House Democrats will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden's agenda — with strong leverage over a scant Republican majority," she added.

Between the lines: With Democratic control of the U.S. Senate and President Biden’s veto power, Republicans will face significant challenges getting any of their legislative priorities passed into law.

Context: The razor-thin race for House control came as a stark reversal of fortunes for Republicans, who had entered the midterms optimistic about the possibility of a "red wave." Wins by endangered Democrats like Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) put that outcome out of reach.

  • And in Washington’s 3rd District, Republican Joe Kent lost in an upset to Democrat Marie Gluesenkamp Pérez.

Among the pivotal victories to retain control of the Senate, incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto held onto her seat in Nevada against Republican challenger Adam Laxalt days after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman flipped a seat in Pennsylvania, defeating Republican Mehmet Oz.

  • Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) also defeated Republican challenger Don Bolduc.
  • Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) won a third term after defeating Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
  • A Republican is expected to keep the Senate seat in Alaska, the Associated Press projected. The race will go to ranked choice voting, which will be tabulated on Nov. 23.

Of note: All eyes now turn to Georgia, where a December runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican Herschel Walker, a former football star, will determine whether the Democrats’ majority becomes a 51-seat majority.

  • If Walker wins in Georgia, Vice President Kamala Harris will still hold the tie-breaking vote.

Zoom out: A number of candidates made history with their elections during the midterms, Axios' Shawna Chen reports.

Go deeper ... How election deniers are faring in key midterm races

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout. The data visualization in this story has been corrected to replace a photo of Val Demings with Cheri Beasley.

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