Skip to content

Republicans secure House majority, but it will be a narrow one

McCarthy already preparing to lead, calls for reopening Capitol to visitors

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., addresses an election night party at The Westin Washington hotel early in the morning of Nov. 9.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., addresses an election night party at The Westin Washington hotel early in the morning of Nov. 9. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Republicans will control the House next year after winning enough seats in the midterm elections to secure at least a narrow majority.

The call that Republicans had won a 218th seat came from The Associated Press at 6:32 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday when GOP Rep. Mike Garcia was declared the winner in California’s 27th District more than a week after polls closed. Democrats won more races than many elections analysts expected, delaying the call of which party would control the chamber.

Republicans last won House control in 2010 and held it until a Democratic wave swept them out in 2018. In 2020, the party picked up a net 12 seats and defeated 13 incumbents despite President Joe Biden winning the White House. Those gains helped set up Republicans to win control of the chamber this year, even without the wave election some had expected.

GOP pickups this year included seats in Arizona, where Eli Crane beat Rep. Tom O’Halleran; Iowa, where Zach Nunn defeated Rep. Cindy Axne; New Jersey, where Tom Kean Jr. defeated Rep. Tom Malinowski; Virginia, where Jen Kiggans defeated Rep. Elaine Luria; and New York, where Mike Lawler defeated Sean Patrick Maloney, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Democrats were able to stave off a significant number of losses and flipped a number of seats in competitive races, ousting GOP Reps. Steve Chabot of Ohio, Yvette Herrell of New Mexico and Mayra Flores of Texas, as well as winning open seats in Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington. Most of the party’s vulnerable incumbents won reelection. 

The AP has still not called some races. Alaska Rep. Mary Peltola was leading the race for the state’s at-large House seat but hadn’t cleared the 50 percent threshold to avoid going to another round of ranked choice voting. 

Despite the narrowness of their majority, the GOP-led House will usher in a new chapter in Biden’s presidency, with Republicans wielding gavels and subpoena power. 

California Republican Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader nominated by his conference on Tuesday to be speaker, started taking steps to take the majority when it was still possible Democrats would remain in power. On Thursday, for example, he announced three transition teams to “ensure we hit the ground running on issues that Democrats have ignored or made worse for the American people under one-party rule.”

McCarthy also sent a letter to Capitol officials asking for a plan to end restrictions imposed at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and reopen the House to visitors. 

On Twitter Wednesday, McCarthy hailed the GOP majority being called.

“Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver,” the tweet said.

President Joe Biden issued a statement congratulating McCarthy and the new GOP majority, and said he was “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.”

“The American people want us to get things done for them,” Biden said. “They want us to focus on the issues that matter to them and on making their lives better. And I will work with anyone — Republican or Democrat — willing to work with me to deliver results for them.