Republicans gain control of US House of Representatives; set to stall President Biden’s agenda for the next two years

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Washington: Donald Trump’s Republican Party has wrested control of the 435-member US House of Representatives from the ruling Democratic Party with a razor-thin majority, setting the stage for a showdown with Joe Biden in the next two years of his presidency.

The Republicans now have 218 seats as against 211 of the Democratic Party. The counting of six seats is still going, the outcome of which would determine the final size of the House. The Republicans – who had hoped to win back control of both chambers – underperformed expectations in the November 8 midterm elections.

But they won the seat they needed for their House majority on Wednesday when California’s 27th district went to incumbent Mike Garcia.

A day earlier, the party lawmakers had elected its leader Kevin McCarthy for the position of House Speaker. McCarthy would replace Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of the Democratic Party as the House Speaker.

“Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver,” McCarthy said in a tweet on Wednesday.

Democrats will keep control of the Senate when the new Congress convenes in January. They have secured 50 seats in the 100-member Senate with the opportunity to gain one more in the Georgia runoff next month.

The House result comes a day after former president Trump, 76, announced his intention to run for presidential election again in 2024.

Biden congratulated House Minority Leader McCarthy Wednesday evening, saying in a statement that he is “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.” “Last week’s elections demonstrated the strength and resilience of American democracy. There was a strong rejection of election deniers, political violence and intimidation. There was an emphatic statement that, in America, the will of the people prevails,” Biden, 79, said in a statement.

The President said in this election, voters spoke clearly about their concerns: the need to lower costs, protect the right to choose, and preserve democracy.

“As I said last week, the future is too promising to be trapped in political warfare. The American people want us to get things done for them. 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,” Biden said.

The Republican Party gained control of the House of Representatives after a gap of four years. In 2018, it lost the majority to the Democrats. The Republicans had last won a majority in the House in 2010 and remained in control for eight years till 2018. In 2020, the party picked a net of 12 seats and defeated 13 incumbents. The Republicans gaining control of the House mean Biden will contend with a divided government as he enters the latter half of his term.

A Republican House is widely expected to clash with Biden on policy, including potential standoffs over raising the debt limit and providing more aid to Ukraine.

Control of the House is crucial as it will allow the Republicans to launch an array of congressional investigations ranging from Biden’s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan to more obviously politicised probes of government actions during the coronavirus pandemic and Biden’s son Hunter’s business activities.

The full scope of the party’s majority may not be clear for several more days – or weeks – as votes in competitive races are still being counted. (PTI)