The New House Majority: Gavel Returns To GOP
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Its MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
And I'm Steve Inskeep.
Heres a sign of the volatility of American politics right now. President Obama is the third president in a row to start out with his party controlling Congress only to be crushed in a midterm election.
MONTAGNE: Each time it was seen as a rejection of the man in the White House.
INSKEEP: Bill Clinton's Democrats lost both Houses in 1994.
MONTAGNE: George W. Bushs Republicans lost both Houses in 2006.
INSKEEP: And then last night, Democrats didnt quite lose everything, but they came close. They lost a lot of ground in the Senate.
MONTAGNE: Republicans captured the House, gaining around 60 seats. And the House is where we begin our coverage with NPR's Andrea Seabrook.
ANDREA SEABROOK: As the polls closed early in the evening, the results began to roll in - Kentucky, Indiana, Virginia - the states that, two years ago, were the bellwether of President Obama's big win, were once again predictors, only this time of dozens of congressional districts returning to the Republicans. It seemed to make California's Kevin McCarthy proud - and not just because of his party's big win. America, said McCarthy, is an unbelievable country
Representative KEVIN MCCARTHY (Republican, California): A country where you could change the power without a single shot being fired. The other uniqueness about this country is no place else but in America do they give you a second chance, and I will tell you, the Republicans will not forget this second chance America have bestowed on us.
(Soundbite of cheering)
SEABROOK: It was just four years ago that Republicans lost the House, after 12 years in which government grew, spending increased, and two wars were begun. Now Republican leaders say they learned their lesson. They will not stray far from their conservative ideals, they say, and incoming freshmen like Ohio's Bob Gibbs plan to hold them to that.
Representative-Elect BOB GIBBS (Republican, Ohio): And we're committed to take this new Congress with all the new members and we're going come back and we're going to cut the deficit spending, we're going to roll back the massive tax increases, and we're going to reform the regulations.
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SEABROOK: Gibbs defeated Democrat Zack Space in Ohio, one of a couple dozen Democrats whose Congressional career is coming to an end after serving only one or two terms in the House. Other longer serving stalwarts also lost their seats. In Pennsylvania, 26-year House veteran Paul Kanjorski fell to Republican Lou Barletta, the mayor of Hazleton. In South Carolina, 28-year Congressman and budget committee chairman John Spratt lost to Republican Mick Mulvaney - a businessman who had Tea Party support. And Gene Taylor, a conservative Democrat from coastal Mississippi, said last night he has a lot more time to go fishing. Taylor was ousted by Republican Steven Palazzo.
The GOP strategy seemed to work - linking moderate and conservative Democrats to their more liberal leaders, President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and westward, that message of smaller government and less spending won seats.
As it became clear that the House would flip from Democratic to Republican control, the man who would be speaker, John Boehner, picked up the phone. He called congressmen-elect in key races, he called a Tea Party group in his home district, and finally he came to the podium at Republican election night results watch in Washington. The emotion of the evening was clear.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): I've spent my whole life chasing the American dream.
SEABROOK: While Boehner choked up, the crowd went wild.
Unidentified People: USA! USA! USA!
Rep. BOEHNER: All right.
SEABROOK: Boehner told the crowd he holds conservative values dear because he's lived them - growing up in a big family, working in his dad's bar. That's a clue to his leadership style as well - Boehner takes pride in his bartending skills. He knows how to deal with every character that walks through the door, he says. And he'll need those skills come January, leading dozens of fresh Republicans elected in a somewhat anti-establishment wave. Last night he ended by thanking his family and his constituents.
(Soundbite of cheering)
Rep. BOEHNER: For giving me the chance to serve and the opportunity to stand before you, ready to lead.
SEABROOK: So in January, when a new Congress begins in the U.S. Capitol, the majority too will be new. The country will return to divided government, as Republicans wield the House gavel once again.
Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, Washington.