- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Republicans retained control of the House in Tuesday’s elections, according to television network projections that showed Democrats falling short of the 25 seats they needed to win to take back the chamber.

The win gives the GOP control for a second straight Congress after four years of Democratic control, from early 2007 through the end of 2010.

“We offered solutions, and the American people want solutions, and tonight they responded by renewing our Republican House majority,” Speaker John A. Boehner said at a victory party.

He also took aim at President Obama’s claim that his re-election would mean people want tax increases on the wealthy, with the speaker saying flatly that “there’s no mandate for raising taxes.”

Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, is expected to easily retain the chamber’s top post, as he likely will face no serious challengers for the leadership position. The same can’t be said for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, as the California Democrat’s fate is far less certain after facing another rough election.

House Democrats, boosted by healthy fundraising, earlier this year had expectations of making a run for the chamber. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm of House Democrats, raised $35.1 million during the three-month period ending in September — the final full quarter of the campaign and a quarterly record for the group. The tally was more than $4 million more than the DCCC’s counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

But Democrats in recent weeks had dialed back their expectations for the House, as it became apparent that spending from GOP-friendly outside groups and the redistricting process likely would shore up the Republicans’ hold on the chamber.

“The DCCC did such a good job [last year] and in the early part of this year, expectations shot up that there was a chance at the majority,” said a Washington Democratic strategist with intimate knowledge of the House, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “But people who really took a look at the House understood that it was an uphill climb. You’re not talking about (needing) 25 seats (to win the House), you’re talking about 35 seats with retirements and other things.”

Rep. Steve Israel, DCCC chairman, accentuated his caucus’ positives Tuesday night, saying he was proud House Democrats “stopped the tea party tide” that Republicans rode on their way to capturing the House two years ago. And the New Yorker touted the DCCC for winning the fundraising battle with the NRCC.

“We are the minority party right now, and we outraised the NRCC by $16.2 million. That’s never happened before,” he said.

But the GOP won the big fight, as it held a 222- to 164-seat advantage over Democrats in the House as of early Wednesday. The tally pushed Republicans past the 218-seat threshold needed to control the 435-seat chamber.

Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas, the NRCC’s chairman, said voters’ unwillingness to hand the speaker’s gavel back to Mrs. Pelosi was because her party “chose to double down on the same failed policies that caused her to lose it in the first place.”

“Just as in 2010, our House Republican candidates listened to the American people and rejected the Democrats’ tax-and-spend agenda that threatens the American Dream,” he said in a statement issued early Wednesday.

Mr. Boehner’s almost two-year tenure as speaker hasn’t always been smooth. At times he has butted heads with an outspoken tea party-inspired freshman class. And many of the upstarts view the tough House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia as their political mentor, which occasionally caused friction between the chamber’s top two Republicans. Both the speaker and Mr. Cantor easily defeated their Democratic challengers Tuesday.

But Mr. Boehner was able to successfully hold his troops in line while easily passing a series of Republican agenda items — including a budget blueprint drafted by House Budget Committee chairman and vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan, and several attempts to kill Mr. Obama’s health care reforms — though all died in the Democrat-run Senate.

Mrs. Pelosi was forced to surrender her role as House speaker to Mr. Boehner after her party suffered crushing defeats in the 2010 congressional elections. At the time, many expected the California Democrat to step down from leadership. She didn’t, choosing instead to run — successfully — for House minority leader.

And as Democrats remain in the minority when the 113th Congress convenes for the first time in early January, speculation again will ramp up as to whether Mrs. Pelosi will remain as the House’s top Democrat.

But the savvy, tight-lipped veteran lawmaker has given no hints she is considering stepping down.

“That’s really hard to say” what she will do after the elections, said Barbara Sinclair, a University of California at Los Angeles political science professor who closely follows the House. “I don’t even know if her best buddy knows, because maybe even she doesn’t know.”

But if her caucus should continue to languish in the minority another two years, there appears little or no enthusiasm — at least for now — among her lieutenants to challenge her, should she desire to remain in charge.

If Mrs. Pelosi does step down, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer is next in line to be the top Democrat in the House. The Maryland Democrat easily won re-election, defeating his GOP challenger by more than 20 percentage points.

With Mr. Obama’s re-election Tuesday, another possible scenario is for Mrs. Pelosi to remain minority leader for a few months before stepping down, a move that would give her time to work with the president on major tax and spending legislation needed to avoid a looming “fiscal cliff.”

• Dave Boyer contributed to this article.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide