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
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
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
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.