House seen staying in Republican control

The most unpopular House of Representatives in modern times was left pretty much unchanged by voters today  with control firmly in Republican hands, according to projections.

The partisan brand of politics practiced by Republicans for the past two years appeared not to have seriously damaged the party.

When the new House is sworn in next January, it will look much like the House that nearly brought about government shutdowns and an historic default on debt in 2011.

The bitter partisanship in the 435-member chamber - a thorn in Democratic President Barack Obama's side - was thought to have contributed to record low public approval ratings of Congress that at one point dipped to 10 percent.

If voters did not like the overall tenor of Congress for the past two years, they seemed to remain satisfied with their individual members.

Election results were still coming in, but it appeared Speaker John Boehner will preside over a House next year that is close to the 240 Republicans and 190 Democrats who now populate the "lower chamber."

Currently, there also are five vacancies.

The result could mean at least two more years of divided U.S. government if Obama wins re-election and Democrats retain their control of the "upper chamber" Senate.

"The upshot is that the voters are saying to President Obama and Speaker Boehner: 'Go back to the bargaining  table; finish the deal,'" said David Kendall, a senior fellow at Third Way, a centrist think tank in Washington.

Kendall was referring to the intensive negotiations Obama and Boehner held during the summer of 2011, which ultimately fell apart but were aimed at bringing around $US4 trillion in deficit reductions over 10 years.

Following that breakdown, many congressional leaders said that only the 2012 elections could settle the Democatic-Republican dispute over taxes and spending that stood in the way of an Obama-Boehner handshake.

Today's results might disappoint those who had been hoping for clear marching orders from voters, though.

Boehner and other top House Republicans already were warning Obama that they will do everything they can to stop the president if he tries to raise income taxes on the rich to help reduce deficits that have hovered around $1 trillion in each of the past four years.

"We don't think that taking more of people's money right now is the answer," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in an interview aired yesterday on MSNBC television.

On election night two years ago, the so-called Tea Party faction shook Washington's political establishment as conservative Republicans rode that small-government movement to a tidal wave victory.

Suddenly, skyrocketing federal debt, which Republicans said threatened to swamp the struggling economy and hamper job creation, dominated the national conversation.

It was in large part due to the Tea Party that Republicans wrested control of the House from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats.

Two years later, voters displayed some fatigue with the Tea Party as some of the movement's stars faced difficult re-election bids.

Even so, Republicans were not expected to abandon the central tenets of Tea Party ideology.

"There will still be enough Republicans enamored by the Tea Party idea against raising taxes," said Youngstown State University political science professor Paul Sracic. "We're looking at a huge struggle in the lame duck and next year," he said of the post-election session of Congress and 2013 fights over tax policy.

 

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