Republicans won control of the U.S. House on Wednesday after The Associated Press declared Mike Garcia the winner of a race in California, securing the party the requisite 218th seat for the majority in the chamber.
The release of thousands of votes in California's 27th District allowed the AP to determine that not enough votes were outstanding for Democratic challenger Christy Smith to overtake Garcia.
It took more than a week after the Nov. 8 midterm elections for Republicans to reach the minimum 218 seats needed to flip the House from Democratic control for the next Congress. The full scope of the party’s majority may not be clear for several more days — or weeks — as votes in competitive races are still being counted.
Democrats will finish with at least 210 seats but no more than 217.
The AP does not make projections and will only declare a winner in a race when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap.
What was the holdup?
With some states breaking records in terms of mail-in ballots, vote counting was slowgoing in many states. Following voting changes during the coronavirus pandemic, some states instituted more permanent balloting changes, including no-excuse absentee and early in-person voting.
Republicans were within six seats of reaching the 218 needed for a majority last Sunday, but contests in California and Colorado remained uncalled. On Monday night, the party picked up another few seats, to reach the 217 mark.
It wasn't until Wednesday that Republicans finally hit 218 with new votes coming in from California.
Why does this matter?
Republicans have been angling to take over Congress from Democrats, who have controlled the Senate since 2021 and the House since 2019.
The party that controls the House is able to elect a new speaker. Taking power on Jan. 3, the GOP caucus will elect a new speaker, run every committee and decide what bills come to the House floor.
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has already unveiled his “Commitment to America,” a broad outline of economic, border security and other policies that the GOP would propose in the early days of the next Congress.
McCarthy won the nomination for House speaker on Tuesday, with a formal vote in January.
With the House under Republican control, it is possible that much of President Joe Biden's agenda would be effectively dead for the final two years of his term. Bills need to be approved by both the House and Senate to make it to Biden's desk.
What about the Senate?
Last Saturday, the AP determined that Democrats had maintained control of the Senate after calling the Nevada Senate race for incumbent Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto over Republican challenger Adam Laxalt. The Georgia race between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker is headed to a runoff next month, meaning that Democrats could pick up a 51st seat.
If Republicans win in Georgia, the chamber will remain split at 50-50, as it is currently, with Vice President Kamala Harris — who sides with Democrats — being a tiebreaking vote.
Last Friday, AP declared that Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly had defeated Republican challenger Blake Masters in Arizona, bringing the chamber’s partisan divide to an even 49-49.