Power Shifts in Congress

Sophia Bollag

Just two years after winning a sweeping House majority, Democrats have lost their edge to the Republicans in the House of Representatives. At 12:00 a.m. on Nov. 3, 185 seats had gone to

Democrats, and 239 to Republicans, with 11 seats still to be determined.

In California, 19 House seats had gone to Republicans and 32 to Democrats as of 12:00 a.m. on Nov. 3. The remaining three seats had yet to be determined.

“Our new majority will prepare to do things differently, to take a new approach that hasn’t been tried in Washington before by either party,” said John Boehner, the anticipated next Speaker of the House, in a speech he gave just after the Republican House majority was announced. He went on to list a series of policies which have been pledged by nearly every Republican politician who has ever been in Washington: “cutting spending instead of increasing it, reducing the size of government instead of increasing it, and reforming the way Congress works and giving it back to the American people.”

Although the Republicans continue to trumpet promises of tax cuts, this will be a difficult reform to pull-off in light of the recent recession and the Republicans’ lack of a supermajority in the House. In fact, although optimism and promises abounded in the winning Republicans’ speeches, realistically, there are still enough Democrats in both the House and the Senate to block much of the reform the Republicans are promising.

In an interview with Newsweek, one GOP staffer said of future healthcare reform, “[Even with the House majority] most of our efforts will be symbolic.”

However, Boehner will probably make considerable headway on his promise to reform Congressional processes. According to Newsweek, Boehner has proposed that legislation up for vote in the House will be posted online prior to voting for public consideration and that “every bill will include a section explaining why it’s constitutional,” a provision which Democrats argue infringes on the Supreme Court’s power of judicial review.

In the Senate, Democrats retained their majority, as projected. By Nov. 3 at 12:00 a.m., Democrats had secured 51 of the 100 Senate seats, while the Republicans secured 47.  Democrat Barbara Boxer scored a victory over Republican Carly Fiorina for California’s open Senate seat.

In other states, however, many Senate seats went to far-right Tea Party candidates. In Kentucky, Rand Paul won against Democrat Jack Conway and, in Florida, Marco Rubio won against Independent Charlie Crist and Democrat Kendrick Meek. Tea Partiers were also elected to Senate seats in Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Oklahoma, in what Paul dubbed “a Tea Party tidal wave.” Two of the Tea Party’s most enthusiastically backed candidates, Christine O’Donnell in Delaware and Sharron Angle in Nevada lost their elections, though, according to O’Donnell “were victorious because… our voices were heard, and we’re not gonna be quiet now.”
Discontent with the Democrats clearly extended beyond Washington this election. Of the 12 states which will experience gubernatorial party shifts, ten shifted in favor of Republican candidates. The only two states where a Democratic governor will replace a Republican are California with the election of Jerry Brown and Hawai’i with the election of Neil Abercrombie.