The polls have closed and the results are (mostly) in. Ahead of the 2022 midterms, the Democratic party held narrow majorities in both the House and Senate, but with the election results inching closer to being finalized, that’s changed. On Nov. 16, Republicans secured the House of Representatives, in a big move for the balance of power in Congress. And, with a switch in parties comes a switch in Speaker of the House, which is the official title for the chamber’s majority party leader.
In general, midterm elections tend to favor the party not holding the presidency. In 2018, Democrats picked up 40 House seats with President Donald Trump in office, gaining control of the House of Representatives, which led to Rep. Nancy Pelosi becoming the Speaker of the House in January 2019. But things were tighter in 2022: There were 12 House races that were considered to be neck-and-neck leading up to Election Day. On Nov. 16, Republicans clinched it: with Mike Garcia’s win in California’s 27th District, the GOP hit the minimum 218 seats required to have a majority in Congress. While there are still a few races yet to be called as of Nov. 17, Democrats have officially lost the House.
That means that current Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, will have to give up the Speaker’s gavel to a Republican. Despite the drawn-out election results, it looks like the GOP have already picked their man: the current minority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California. On Nov. 15, even as races were still being called, Republicans in the House voted 188-31 to nominate him to the role, per The New York Times.
According to the U.S. Senate, “the Speaker of the House is not only the presiding officer of the House, but also serves as leader of the majority party conference,” making it an influential role with the power to shape not only party stances on major issues, but the day-to-day operations of the House. According to a Nov. 7 interview with CNN, McCarthy already has big plans, vowing to “secure the border, cut back on government spending, and launch rigorous investigations into the Biden administration.” He emphasized three focuses — inflation, crime, and tighter border security — which have been central to the Republicans’ pitch to voters.
However, with a thin Republican majority, he still has work to do. According to the U.S. House of Representatives: History, Art, and Archives, “the Speaker is elected at the beginning of the new Congress by a majority of the Representatives-elect from candidates separately chosen by the majority- and minority-party caucuses.” There are 435 members in the House, with each member representing a district of their state — and if not all 218 Republicans in the House support McCarthy, he could find himself fighting his own campaign.
Further complicating the big picture is that Republicans don’t hold all of Congress. In a surprise victory, Democrats narrowly managed to maintain control of the Senate, largely due to John Fetterman’s win over Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. And they have the potential to expand their lead further, as the Senate race in Georgia goes to a runoff between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. That means that Democratic leadership of the Senate will likely stay the same, with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who also won his 2022 re-election bid, as majority leader.
With the new makeup of Congress taking effect on Jan. 3, both parties have (a little) time to finish figuring things out. But, uh, it might be best to hurry up.