Republicans edged closer to control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday, but the outcome of two Senate races in the western states of Arizona and Nevada remained uncertain, leaving control of the upper chamber in limbo two days after voting in nationwide congressional races.
Republicans appeared to have won 209 House contests in their quest to attain a 218-vote majority in the 435-member chamber. Democrats have won 192 seats, leaving 34 races undecided as vote counting continues.
Republicans say they are confident they will win the House majority even as they voice dismay that the size of their political advantage over Democrats is likely to be far smaller than pre-election predictions that forecast a “red wave” of Republican winners filling the House chamber come January, when the new Congress is sworn in.
Congressman Kevin McCarthy, the current Republican minority leader in the Democrat-controlled chamber, is the odds-on favorite to become the next House speaker if Republicans control the chamber. He has started calling Republicans asking for their support at an upcoming party caucus vote to determine who will lead the party’s House lawmakers.
McCarthy would replace Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the current speaker, and like her, under terms of the U.S. Constitution, automatically would become second in line to the U.S. presidency after the vice president, should both of the country’s top two positions be vacated and need to be filled.
As it stands now, Republicans have won 49 of the Senate’s 100 seats, while the Democrats have won 48, virtually mirroring the current 50-50 split between the two parties.
One of the remaining races will be decided in a runoff election on December 6 in the southern state of Georgia between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and his Republican challenger, former football player Herschel Walker. With a third candidate in their contest winning 2% of the vote, neither Warnock nor Walker crossed the 50% threshold required to win the seat.
In the other two unsettled contests, one Democrat and one Republican currently hold the leads.
Incumbent Arizona Democratic Senator Mark Kelly holds a 95,000-vote lead over his Republican opponent, venture capitalist Blake Masters, with election officials estimating that 830,000 ballots remain to be counted.
In neighboring Nevada, Republican Adam Laxalt, a former state attorney general, is leading incumbent Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto by 15,000 votes with about 180,000 ballots left to be counted.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday characterized his Democratic Party as having done better than expected against the Republicans and announced he will invite leaders of both parties to the White House after he returns from G-20 meetings in Indonesia to discuss how to work together on economic and national security priorities.
Whatever the eventual outcome, Biden said the election, carried out with only minor disputes across the country, was a good day for America.
"Our democracy has been tested in recent years, but with their votes, the American people have spoken and proven once again that democracy is who we are," he said.