WASHINGTON (AP) — Republicans will command the House for two more years as Donald Trump’s astounding White House triumph helped them keep their record-sized majority nearly intact. “He earned a mandate,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, who now faces working with a president with whom he had a turbulent relationship during the campaign.
Democrats had envisioned that voters repulsed by Trump comments about women and Hispanics could provide potentially big Election Day gains in suburban and ethnically diverse areas. Instead, the Democrats suffered a dispiriting day with just modest pickups, a maximum of nine, as the GOP swept to control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
That was well below the 30 seats Democrats needed to capture House control. Republicans currently hold a 247-188 majority, including three vacant seats, the most the GOP has had since their 270 in 1931.
“He turned politics on its head,” Ryan, R-Wis., told reporters gathered Wednesday in his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin. Ryan credited the president-elect with helping carry Republicans into Congress and promised to work “hand-in-hand” with him on a GOP agenda.
By Wednesday, Republicans had at least 238 seats — guaranteeing an extension of their six-year run of House control — and just six of their incumbents had lost. The GOP retained seats in Minnesota, New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa and Wisconsin that Democrats had coveted.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the two parties “have a responsibility to come together and find common ground.” In a written statement, she suggested cooperating with Trump on infrastructure projects and said she will “pray for his success.”
It was initially unclear what impact the marginally smaller size of the GOP majority would have on Ryan, who’d angered some Republicans by refusing to campaign for Trump.
While one member of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus was defeated, several newly elected Republicans could bolster it. That would increase conservatives’ leverage to demand their way on issues like curbing spending and government regulations.
In Florida, freshman GOP Rep. Carlos Curbelo won a race that underscored the limits of Trump’s damage to Republicans. With around 7 in 10 of the Miami-area district’s voters Hispanic, Democrats targeted it and the race became one of the country’s most expensive with an $18 million price tag. But Curbelo distanced himself from his own party’s nominee and prevailed.
Virginia freshman Rep. Barbara Comstock kept her seat in the well-heeled Washington, D.C., suburbs despite Democrats’ attempts to lash her to Trump.
Democrats defeated two Florida GOP incumbents, but that seemed due to local circumstances.
Rep. John Mica, 73, a 12-term veteran from the Orlando area, was criticized by GOP strategists for a lackluster campaign and lost to Democrat Stephanie Murphy, a political neophyte. Democrat Charlie Crist, once the state’s Republican governor, defeated Rep. David Jolly in a St. Petersburg district redrawn to favor Democrats.
Democrats also beat GOP Reps. Scott Garrett, a Freedom Caucus member from New Jersey’s New York City suburbs; moderate Bob Dold from outside Chicago; Cresent Hardy of Nevada and New Hampshire’s Frank Guinta.
Just one Democratic incumbent had lost by Wednesday, Nebraska’s Brad Ashford.
Both parties’ candidates and outside groups spent nearly $1.1 billion combined on House campaigns, shy of the $1.2 billion record in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group. Republicans had only a slight financial edge.
Even with the Ryan-led House GOP’s current formidable advantage, work stalled this year on spending bills after hitting objections from conservatives.
Moving into 2017, Congress faces a fresh round of budget legislation plus the need to renew the government’s borrowing authority or face an economy-jarring federal default. Those are never easy to pass.
Ryan, 46, has said he wants to be speaker in the new Congress and has expressed confidence in doing so. But he is not immune to ire from the Freedom Caucus, which chased former Speaker John Boehner from Congress last year, and other Republicans upset over his frigid treatment of Trump.
Just a handful of disgruntled conservatives could possibly block Ryan from the 218 votes he’d need to retain his post. That would be an embarrassing setback for the GOP’s 2012 vice presidential candidate, who may harbor White House aspirations.
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