What does Republican control of the House mean for Biden and the Democrats?

Conservative party narrowly gains control of House of Representatives after disappointing midterms

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was re-elected party leader this week. Getty Images / AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The Republicans have narrowly clinched control of the US House of Representatives on Wednesday, after an anticipated “red wave” was reduced to a ripple in the midterm elections.

Major news outlets called the race on Wednesday evening following results from California's 27th congressional district, where now representative-elect Mike Garcia was projected to win.

Right before their control of the chamber was solidified, House Republicans re-elected Kevin McCarthy as their leader on Tuesday, despite dissent from the far-right “Freedom Caucus”.

Mr McCarthy on Tuesday said the Republican majority will be able to “stop [President Joe] Biden’s socialist agenda, fire [current House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi”.

“We’re going to have the ability to change America,” Mr McCarthy said as he walked into the House Republican meeting.

The Republicans did not sweep the Congress in the way they had promised to in the run-up to the critical midterm cycle, and Democrats maintained their slim majority in the Senate.

But a Republican House will still have the capacity to create roadblocks for Democrats and even derail Mr Biden's legislative agenda.

Ukraine

Some Republicans have hinted at enacting hurdles for the administration's support to Ukraine, which has so far amounted to at least $19.3 billion since Russia's February invasion.

Last month, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was re-elected as his party's leader in the chamber this week, commented that a Republican Congress would not write a “blank cheque” for Ukraine.

On the House floor on Wednesday, far-right representative Marjorie Taylor Greene called for an audit on aid from Washington to Ukraine.

"Including aid money, and any other aid monies that have been given to the Ukrainian government to defend their national security where our national security has been ignored," she said.

Afghanistan

Mr Biden faced criticism over the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, after he followed through on a deal his predecessor Donald Trump made with the Taliban.

Republicans have promised to investigate the withdrawal that led to the deaths of 13 US troops.

Jim Banks, a Republican veteran of the war in Afghanistan, told Fox News Sunday that “no one has ever been held accountable” for the withdrawal.

“There’s never been an investigation into the pullout of Afghanistan that cost the lives of 13 of our heroes,” said Mr Banks, who is among those in his party vying for the House majority whip position.

The debt ceiling and energy

Republicans have largely aimed to cut back on federal spending and “regain energy independence”.

The party has been unified in their opposition to Mr Biden and the Democratic Party's sweeping spending bills aimed at combating climate change, expanding healthcare coverage and other policy initiatives.

In recent weeks, leading Republicans have touted the federal debt limit as a means of blocking additional spending.

Leading Republican Rick Scott on Tuesday urged his fellow party members in the Senate not to raise the US government’s debt limit until Democrats agree to spending cuts.

This is raising the spectre of the 2011 stand-off that brought the US to the brink of default, triggering the first-ever downgrade of US debt and a stock market slide, Reuters reported.

Democrats have been lobbying to increase the legal limit before the next Congress takes office.

In the House Republican conference’s midterm messaging and policy platform, called the “Commitment to America”, conservative members of Congress vowed to “regain American energy independence and lower prices at the pump” by maxing out the production of domestic-made energy and enacting faster approval in the permit process for fossil fuel projects.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Russian influence on Wednesday, Republican August Pfluger further condemned the Biden administration's energy policy and called for permit reform.

"The permitting reform needs to happen ... we have pipelines that are two or three miles from being completed, yet there is a war domestically on our own production," he said.

Taxes

House Republicans have also pushed for “pro-growth tax and deregulatory policies” that they argue would “increase take-home pay, create good-paying jobs and bring stability to the economy”, one leader wrote of the party's House agenda in an op-ed.

Some have pushed for an extension to tax cuts included in Mr Trump’s 2017 signature tax law that slashed corporate tax rates.

That could result in codifying trillions of dollars' worth of lower taxes.

The conservative party is also moving to advance legislation that would make permanent the 2017 tax rates paid by individuals.

Increased oversight of Biden administration

Republicans have also promised increased oversight over the Biden administration, which could mean a laundry list of congressional investigations, subcommittees and hearings on Capitol Hill, adding to politicians' agendas.

“Oversight is a primary function of the Congress. And for the last few years, there has been no oversight of the Biden agenda and the Biden administration,” Mr Banks told Fox News Sunday.

“So that has to be a focal point of every single committee in the Congress, especially in the House under Republican control.”

Mr Banks and other members of his party have also raised the possibility of investigations into the origins of Covid-19 and the ensuing pandemic lockdowns as well as a probe into Mr Biden's son Hunter's business dealings.

US President Joe Biden walks alongside his son Hunter after attending Mass at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Johns Island, South Carolina. AFP

January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection

The House select January 6 investigative committee, which has helped piece together the events surrounding the 2021 deadly insurrection at the Capitol, is set to dissolve on January 3.

Republicans are all but certain to discontinue the work of the committee once the old Congress dissolves.

That would also end any legal battles aimed at compelling Mr Trump to comply with the committee subpoena for him to testify.

The committee on Monday said he had “failed to comply” with its subpoena for documents and evidence.

“In the days ahead, the committee will evaluate next steps in the litigation and regarding the former President’s non-compliance,” Democrat Bennie Thompson and Republican Liz Cheney said in a statement.

Impeachment

House Republican Conference chairwoman Elise Stefanik suggested recently that impeachment of Mr Biden would be “on the table” in a Republican-controlled House.

Similar threats from other party members have largely been viewed as vengeance over two Democratic-led impeachments of Donald Trump: the first for asking Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Mr Biden and allegedly issuing a “quid pro quo”, and the second over the Capitol insurrection.

“They don't know on what basis yet, because all they're trying to do is to even the score about the fact that Donald Trump was impeached twice,” Democratic strategist Craig Varoga told The National.

But many Republicans have moved to quell any impeachment threats.

“I am not interested in playing tit for tat. I am not interested in retaliation. Impeachment has been weaponised over the years, and we’ve seen that,” Nancy Mace, a representative of South Carolina, said in October.

Updated: November 17, 2022, 6:21 AM
EDITOR'S PICKS
NEWSLETTERS
MORE FROM THE NATIONAL