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FAQ: Why does control of the US House matter?

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(NewsNation) — It’s been nearly a week since the 2022 midterm elections and it’s still unclear which party will control the U.S. House of Representatives, although the GOP remains favored.

As of Monday, Republicans control 215 seats, while Democrats have secured 201. Regardless of who ultimately wins the 218 seats needed for power, the party in charge will likely hold the slimmest majority in decades.

“With a one vote, two vote majority, it’s very hard to see how anything is going to get done,” said NewsNation’s Washington D.C. Bureau Chief Mike Viqueira. “There’s absolutely no wiggle room.”

That could mean legislative gridlock for the foreseeable future but here’s why control of the House matters in the lead-up to 2024.

2022 General Embeds

what power does the majority party have?

Fundamentally, the party with the most seats in Congress has a voting majority. That means a Republican-led House can stymie President Biden’s agenda even though Democrats maintained control of the U.S. Senate.

But perhaps the most important tool at the GOP’s disposal is the power to conduct congressional investigations. House Republicans would effectively “have the gavels of committees,” Viqueira noted, which would allow them to direct hearings and demand information as they see fit.

Current House minority leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made his intentions clear in a letter announcing his bid for House Speaker last week.

“We will devote the resources necessary for this House to go toe-to-toe with the Executive
branch, especially as it pertains to oversight and holding the Biden administration accountable for its
mismanagement of our country,” said McCarthy.

The majority party also has considerable power when it comes to drafting chamber rules and deciding which bills the House will consider.

In other words, don’t expect much sweeping legislation in a divided government where Democrats hold one chamber while the GOP controls the other.

what would a gop-led house investigate?

House Republicans are prepared to subpoena Hunter Biden and investigate his business dealings, Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), the top Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, told CBS News last week.

GOP lawmakers are also expected to prioritize investigations into the origins of the coronavirus and the Biden administration’s policies in response to the pandemic.

“I think we can also expect an investigation of the FBI and the decision making process that went into the raid of Mar-a-Lago,” said Viqueira.

Congressional Republicans plan to hold additional hearings on the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the ongoing surge of migrants at the southern border.

who will be speaker of the house?

McCarthy was favored to take over the role in the lead up to the 2022 midterms but after Republicans underperformed, his standing could be in jeopardy.

On Tuesday, House Republicans are scheduled to meet behind closed doors and hold their internal leadership elections, although a number of influential conservatives have called for the discussions to be delayed while multiple elections remain undecided.

Once both parties determine their respective nominees, the House will vote on January 3, 2023. The representative from either party will need 218 votes to become Speaker.

Current House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in an interview Sunday she has no plans of stepping away from Congress, but declined to say whether she will run for Speaker again.

will a narrow majority help bipartisanship?

Whichever party wins control of the House, it will almost certainly hold a razor-thin majority. Current estimates suggest Republicans may take control by just one or two seats.

Unfortunately, a margin that slim could lead to more division than cooperation.

“In general, when the margins are narrower then the party lines become more rigid and compromise doesn’t happen,” said Viqueira.

Today, congressional Democrats hold a 220 to 212 lead over the GOP, with three House seats currently vacant.

If the Republicans manage to take just 218 seats when it’s all said and done, it will be the smallest majority by either of the two major parties since the 72nd Congress in 1931.

what could the next two years look like?

In a divided Congress, Biden may be more likely to use the president’s executive powers to move his agenda forward. Biden has already signed 104 executive orders, or 59 per year, so far, according to data compiled by UC Santa Barbara.

That rate is significantly higher than former President Barack Obama’s yearly average (35) and slightly higher than Trump’s (55).

But Viqueira points out that the president is limited in what he can do via executive action and expects both parties will be more focused on 2024.

“I think what we’re going to see over the next two years is both parties positioning within Congress to set up whoever their eventual presidential nominee is to succeed,” he said.


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