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Republicans Sweep the House

3 years ago
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Two years after the historic election of Barack Obama, Republicans rebounded Tuesday night and gained control of the House of Representatives with a dominant showing in the 2010 midterm elections. A lethal combination of voter anxiety, a still-weak economy, anger at the president's health care reform bill and a surging tea party movement combined to sweep the Democrats out of power just four years after they had taken control of the chamber.

Republicans needed to win 39 of the Democrats' 255 seats to take back the House, and by Wednesday morning they had won at least 60, with most coming in districts held by moderate Democrats who have strained to distance themselves from their party in recent months. Those same districts held the keys to victory for the Democrats four years ago, when the party swept into power with a pickup of 31 seats. The last Republican takeover of the chamber came with the 1994 Republican Revolution, when the GOP won 52 seats, eight fewer than Tuesday night.

Among the casualties for the Democrats were some of their most senior and beloved members, including 28-year veteran Rep. John Spratt (S.C.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. Ike Skelton (Mo.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, who could not fend off his challenger in the his military-heavy district. Along with Rep. David Obey (Wisc.), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who announced his retirement this year in the face of sagging poll numbers, Spratt and Skelton were the leaders of the Democratic Old Guard that had won their power over decades and served in the chamber longer than many of their congressional staffers have been alive.

The Republican victories Tuesday night meant that Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, the current House minority leader, would almost certainly become the next speaker of the House and that the chamber's first female speaker, Nancy Pelosi, would lose her historic leadership post.

"This is not a time for celebration," an emotional Boehner told a packed ballroom as the results came in Tuesday night, breaking into tears at several points in his remarks to a packed ballroom. "It's a time to roll up our sleeves and go to work."

The speaker-to-be told the audience that his new Republican majority would pursue an agenda of cutting spending, reducing the size of government, and reforming the ways of congress. "The people's priorities will be our priorities," he said, before putting President Obama on notice. "The American people have sent an unmistakable message to President Obama tonight, and that message is: change course."

The first signs of trouble came early for the Democrats, when Rep. Rick Boucher, a 14-term moderate Democrat in Virginia's ninth district, took a surprise loss to Republican Morgan Griffith after holding back Republican challengers for years. Although Boucher voted against the Democrats' health care bill in 2009, he voted in favor of the Democrats' energy reform bill, complete with a cap-and-trade provision that critics said would drive up the cost of coal. Republicans believed that vote would cost Boucher his seat in his coal-heavy Southwest Virginia district and ran ads against him to make it happen.

Further west in Indiana, Rep. Baron Hill, a fifth-term Democrat and a member of the moderate Blue Dog coalition, lost to Republican lawyer Todd Young. Going into the race, Democrats called Hill's race a crucial toss-up that they needed to win to hold back a Republican tide. A loss in the district portended larger losses across the board for the party later in the night.

As the evening progressed, news of more Democratic losses pored across news tickers, with longtime incumbents and freshman going down from New England to the Deep South and west. Sophomore Rep. Carole Shea-Porter lost in New Hampshire and broke the seal for Republicans, who had been completely shut out of New England in 2008. In Virginia's fifth district, freshman Rep. Tom Perriello, who was a symbol of the Obama magic in 2008, went down in defeat days after the president stumped for him in a last-minute rally to save the seat. In Texas, even longtime Rep. Chet Edwards finally lost his seat after serving as a perennial target for a hungry GOP for years. In South Dakota, Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the daughter of a storied political family in the state, was headily defeated by Kristi Noem, a 38-year old rising start for the GOP there.

With Republicans on the verge of a dominant victory, it was clear Tuesday night that the days of President Obama setting the congressional agenda were over. On the list of doomed initiatives favored by the White House: comprehensive immigration reform, climate-change legislation with a cap-and-trade mechanism, the Employee Free Choice Act (the union-backed item known as "card check"), and possibly the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the policy banning gays from serving openly in the military. The latter is currently waiting for a Senate vote in the lame duck session as a part of the Defense Authorization Act.

In addition to redirecting the legislative agenda, Republicans will have the chairmanships of key committees in the House. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) would likely take the chairman's gavel of the Government Oversight Committee, the panel empowered to investigate the Obama administration's federal agencies.

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Sitting atop the House Judiciary Committee will likely be Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texan who has advocated for strict border security laws and defended Arizona's controversial immigration measure as "constitutional and reasonable."

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a math whiz and member of the GOP's new leadership team known as the "Young Guns," will likely take over the House Budget Committee. From that post, Ryan is expected to fire round after round of numbers-driven talking points to undercut the Obama agenda and the budget blueprint behind it.

Before any results had come in Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats' top campaign strategist, Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, insisted that their party would win the night, despite dire estimates from nonpartisan observers who have pegged likely losses for the Democrats at between 50 and 60 seats.

"We will be on pace to maintain the majority in the House of Representatives," Pelosi told reporters gathered at the Democratic National Committee's headquarters in Washington. "The people have to speak and this election will not be determined by the pundits."

Van Hollen defiantly predicted, "Millions of voters around the country are proving the Washington pundits absolutely wrong. . . . This thing is not over."

Follow the latest House results on Politics Daily's live election map.

Follow Patricia Murphy on Twitter at 1PatriciaMurphy.

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eyedzervit

As far as being the Party of NO...... Obama would have liked them to be the Party of 100% YES. His way or the Highway. This is typical of arrogance in presuming he knows what's best for us. Most Americans are glad the Republicans blocked some things and going by the results of this election, want them to continue fighting.

November 03 2010 at 11:53 AM
Rob & Kathy

I just want to see how Obama is going to blame Bush....

November 03 2010 at 11:52 AM
mistykay13

Well, good old New York & California both missed the "wake up call"! They BOTH sent the SAME Dems back into office! NY got ANOTHER "elite" governor and California re-cycled an OLD has-been! Sad.....

November 03 2010 at 11:46 AM +2
JOYELL

THE REASON THE REPUBLICANS WON IS BECAUSE THE AVERAGE AMERICAN IS SICK AND TIRED OF THIS TAX AND SPEED CRAP FROM OBAMA AND THE DEMOCRATS. SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFICE FOR THE LAST 18 MONT THEY FOOLED AROUND WITH THIS STUPID HEALTHCARE BILL WHEN HE SHOULD HAVE TRIED TO FIXED THE ECOMONY BUT OH NO HE WANTED TO DO THIS AND THAT IS WHY THE THEY LOST WITH ALL THIS BACK DOOR BUSINESS AND AMERICANS ARE JUST SICK AND TIED OF THE CRAP . SO NOW THE PARTY OF NO IS IN POWER SO REPUBLICANS YOU PREACH YOU WANT TO HELP THE AMERICANS NOW YOUR CHANCE IS HERE. DO YOUR JOBS OR YOU WILL NEVER SEE THE WHITE HOUSE AGAIN AND THAT GOP YOU CAN TAKE TO THE BANKS.

November 03 2010 at 11:45 AM +1
1 reply to JOYELL's comment
rhino45411

40% of the Stimulus is tax cuts... Obama has passed the biggest tax cut in American history... Too bad he couldn't voice it because Democrats are a bunch of wussies.

November 03 2010 at 12:37 PM
Rob & Kathy

As predicted, the Democrats overreached with their liberal agenda. They always do. They were rejected by the American peeople...

November 03 2010 at 11:43 AM +2
mistykay13

Well, let us ALL hope that BOTH the Dems & Repubs FINALLY understand that the VOTERS do not FAVOR either party and that BOTH must STOP the big spending, tighten the money belt, REDUCE the debt to China, and just fund only necessary social programs & defense. Discretionary spending goes out of the picture until we can get jobs restored, the debt paid off....once that happens we can start again funding things like college tuitons, healthcare insurance, etc. I can't buy a new car when I can't even make the mortgage payment!

November 03 2010 at 11:40 AM
April

A direct hit to the pocketbook woke up the snoozing electorate. Obama has given the American public an education into what socialism looks like, and we rejected it last night. We are all paying attention to Washington DC politics like never before. Thank you for that Mr. Obama.

November 03 2010 at 11:35 AM
Bob

This was clearly a referendum on the policies of Obama. The President either misread or fundamentally misunderstood the type of change voters were looking for after the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush administration that put Obama in power in the first place. The Republicans must stay on their message of fiscal reform and smaller, less intrusive government or the cranky old white folks who gave them the House in 2010 will vote them right out again in 2012. The republicans had better educate the young people who so wanted "change" that the type of ruinous spending planned by Obama is ruining their chance for the American Dream (unless they are one of the lucky ones to land a federal job). Careful what you wish for Republicans: now it is your turn to take positive steps to invigorate the economy and put people back to work. If Obama won't play ball, let him suffer the consequences at the ballot box. Do not get bogged down in issues like abortion and gay marriage. Roe v. Wade is the law and it will take a constitutional ammendment to change it. Why anyone cares if two gay people unite in marriage is beyond me. Apply your family values energy toward getting the family breadwinner back to work.

November 03 2010 at 11:29 AM
Lorie

Thank God the silent majority has finally spoken up and I think we have the Tea Party to thank for that. Nancy Pelosi - YOU'RE FIRED. We can finally stop this insane Obama agenda which was destroying America. We are the greatest nation in the world and we don't have to bow down to anyone. Nevada - WHAT WERE YOU THINKING.

November 03 2010 at 11:28 AM
patdelb4

Republicans as well as Democrats can and will get pink slips in 2012 if they do not work together and get things going in the right direction with JOBS,put all elected officials on Social Security,Term limits,Illegals,Border Security,Balance the Budget,Stop the President and wife from taking so many unecessary trips at taxpayer expense,No more stimulus and bail outs,No more helping other countries until our debt is paid off,ACCOUNTABILITY,those elected that have not paid taxes be removed from office,the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes as long as they are citizens of the United States and live here no more shelters,

November 03 2010 at 11:28 AM

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