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Republicans celebrate after reaching the threshold to win control of the House

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

For all of their disappointments in the midterm elections, Republicans now have one big gain.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

They captured control of the House of Representatives. This became clear when the Associated Press called a House race in California last night. Republican Representative Mike Garcia won reelection. Though counting continues, it now seems certain the party won at least 218 seats, the narrowest possible majority. About six races are still uncertain, but the Republican margin won't be much larger.

INSKEEP: Still, a majority is a majority. And NPR's Claudia Grisales will cover that new Congress. Good morning.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: Why is that maybe just one extra vote - two or three, maybe - such a big deal?

GRISALES: Right. In the House, nearly all the levers of power belong to the majority. That includes the committees that come with subpoena power, and that could open the door to a series of investigations into the Biden administration. And it also comes with control of what legislation comes to the House floor.

INSKEEP: Well, what does that mean for the Democrats and the president, who had their party in full control of Congress up to now?

GRISALES: Right. This could mark a new era of gridlock. It puts Democrats on notice that they have about three weeks left on the legislative calendar this year to get to bills and other initiatives that may not be options come next year. And as we know, the Senate will remain in Democrats' hands, where they'll be able to take up critical judicial nominees. But beyond that, divided government could block many legislative priorities for the Biden administration. Congress will have to find ways to work together on major must-pass bills such as government funding. Do it in a bipartisan fashion. But otherwise, expectations are that this marks the end of a wave of major Democratic-led initiatives that we saw pass these last couple of years for the Biden administration. And for his part, President Biden said in a statement - he congratulated Republican leader Kevin McCarthy on the win and said he's, quote, "ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families," and he's willing to work with anyone, Republican or Democrat, to deliver those results.

INSKEEP: But how do Republicans run the place with such a very small majority? And it is a fractious Republican membership.

GRISALES: Right. They're going to have to figure out who will lead them first. And Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader, was a presumptive speaker with a red wave expected. But now he's facing a good amount of opposition. He did get a majority of his conference to nominate him as speaker in a vote held behind closed doors earlier this week. But he's going to face a much larger challenge getting a majority of the House floor to vote for him come next year. There's already Republicans who are bucking this plan. Dozens voted for a challenger to him as speaker during their closed-door session. So this first test on who will be speaker will forecast how well the GOP will work together, with very few votes to spare to move their priorities forward.

INSKEEP: Yeah, McCarthy did not have 218 votes when his conference voted, and he's going to have to somehow bring people...

GRISALES: Right.

INSKEEP: ...On board and make concessions of some kind to them.

GRISALES: Right.

INSKEEP: What about, though, the current speaker, Nancy Pelosi? What happens to her?

GRISALES: Yes, there have been questions for months about her future plans. As we know, she'd previously told her caucus this could be her last term as speaker and leader of House Democrats, but that's been less clear. She's been dodging those questions in recent months. But last night, her aide said she's been overwhelmed by calls from colleagues, friends and supporters and that she monitored these vote returns. And now, with Republicans set to take control of the House, she's expected to address her future plans with her colleagues today.

INSKEEP: Historic figure - has been a House speaker twice and a big figure for more than a decade.

NPR's Claudia Grisales, thanks so much.

GRISALES: Thank you much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Claudia Grisales is a congressional reporter assigned to NPR's Washington Desk.