Briefing

Did the Republicans win the House of Representatives?

The GOP flipped the House, but it might not be the major victory it appears

The 2022 midterms are over, with Republicans in control of the House of Representatives — albeit, just barely. Here's everything you need to know:

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Republicans won control of the House more than a week after Election Day after securing the 218th seat necessary to gain a narrow majority. However, their slim victory fell short of the "red wave" pundits predicted for the 2022 midterm elections; the Democrats, meanwhile, held onto control of the Senate after Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) defeated Adam Laxalt.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) celebrated the victory on Twitter, writing, "Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver." McCarthy has already begun to take steps to become the next Speaker of the House, winning the GOP nomination for the role on Tuesday. However, his party's narrow majority will complicate his path to securing the position. Though the majority of House Republicans supported his nomination, 30 voted against him. He will have to sway those representatives to his side to secure the 218 votes he'll need to be formally elected. 

Despite winning a smaller majority than they expected, House control still represents a major victory for the GOP. Republicans will now head key committees, allowing them to impede Biden's agenda and potentially launch investigations according to their plan. The extent of the GOP's majority remains to be seen, as votes in competitive races are still being tallied. (Similarly, the Georgia Senate race is headed for a runoff in December, where Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Herschel Walker will face off again.)

What were the pre-election polls saying about the likelihood of Republicans flipping the House?

Republicans maintained a lead in House midterm election polls, but the certainty of their win waned at various points. In the early stages of the race, Republicans were expected to easily flip the House since the Democrats' former majority was based on only eight seats. Historically, the party in the White House loses seats in the midterms; since the end of World War II, the president's party has lost 26 House seats on average. However, a shift in the political environment occurred after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, seemingly giving Democrats a slight boost. 

Nevertheless, Democrats were on the defensive, trying to maintain their 221-212 majority. Republicans only needed to win seven seats of the 33 midterm races considered competitive. The newly drawn congressional maps gave Republicans a slight advantage, with 12 districts projected to flip their way, according to nonpartisan Cook Political Report estimates before Election Day.

Non-partisan poll aggregator FiveThirtyEight's election forecast likewise showed Republicans maintaining their lead against the Democrats, giving them an 84 percent chance of winning the House — a 14-point jump over the September estimate. Polls showed that the economy was a leading concern for voters going into the midterms, and those prioritizing that issue typically leaned toward Republican candidates. FiveThirtyEight also noted a shift in the generic congressional ballot polling average, swinging back towards Republicans after a short-lived lead for the Democrats. 

How many House seats had competitive races?

Before Election Day, political analysts predicted the race for the House might come down to only a handful of districts. The Cook Political Report showed Republicans with a slight advantage of 212 leaning or likely seats over the Democrats' 188 leaning or likely seats; as of Nov. 7, the day before the election, 35 seats remained in a state of play, with the report deeming them toss-ups. Democrats had to win 27 out of those 33 competitive races to control the House, while Republicans only had to win six.

Politico senior editor Steven Shepard attributed four House races that moved over to the Republican side to "Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-Texas) strength at the top of the ticket and the GOP's continued improvement among Latino voters." District races in Florida, Wisconsin, and Arizona also moved in the direction of Republicans. 

What will happen now that Republicans have taken the House?

In September, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) revealed his party's midterm agenda, calling it their "Commitment to America." The brief document covered some of the things House Republicans plan to do now that they've won the majority in the midterm elections. The economy and stronger border control were among the top issues Republicans pledged to attend to. However, they did not provide many details in the report and notably omitted issues that favored their opponents, such as abortion rights and the Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

Another possible outcome of the Republican victory might be the party disbanding the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. McCarthy has not responded to a subpoena to testify about conversations he had with the former president that day, and he was an early opponent of the committee and threatened to investigate any telecom company that provided phone records to the investigation if House Republicans won back control, per The Washington Post. 

Democrats focused on issues such as abortion, climate change, and gun control under President Biden in the run-up to the election, but their goals could be stymied now that Republicans have reclaimed the House. The GOP could block Biden from implementing his proposed agenda for the rest of his current term, per the Los Angeles Times, and some Republicans have speculated about impeaching him if given the opportunity. 

Because Democrats won the Senate, however, the GOP's narrow majority in the House may face pushback by the upper chamber, potentially creating what The Associated Press calls "legislative chaos." With such a slim majority, the path to the GOP passing measures critical to their agenda could come down to the vote of individual members. Likewise, the Biden administration faces an uphill battle now to implement his agenda for the remainder of his term as president. 

Update Nov. 17, 2022: This story has been updated throughout to reflect the results of the midterm elections.

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