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With all but a handful of races decided, next year's Congress will be one of the most evenly divided in the country's history. Legislative leaders will wrangle with fragile coalitions within and across parties, complicating even basic functions. But first, leaders will need to convince their colleagues to put them in charge. Lisa Desjardins reports.
With all but a handful of races decided, next year's Congress will be one of the most evenly divided in the country's history. Legislative leaders will wrangle with fragile coalitions within and across parties, complicating even basic functions.
But, as congressional correspondent Lisa Desjardins explains, first, those leaders will need to convince their colleagues to put them in charge.
On the Capitol steps, the election is taking human shape, with smiles from the newly elected House members here for orientation, but for current House Republicans, strain, today voted on their leaders while waiting to learn if and by how much they will control the House chamber.
A large group of races remain uncalled, mostly in California. That puts Leader Kevin McCarthy on thin ice in his quest to become speaker. The party is reckoning with disappointing results from this year's midterms, a far cry from the promised red wave. A large majority of House Republicans, 188, today voted to back McCarthy as speaker, against symbolic opposition from Arizona's Andy Biggs.
But that's 30 votes short of the 218 anyone needs to be speaker. To clinch the gavel, McCarthy will need to get those votes by January. Speaker Pelosi's leadership fate currently is up to her. As the next generation of House Democratic leaders awaits her decision and eyes increased Republican power, today, they spoke of bipartisanship.
Pete Aguilar of California:
Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA):
The American people clearly want us to work together. They want us to solve problems. And that's the moment that we're in now. We have a chance to make continued progress if Republicans are willing to work together.
Few are happier than Senate Democrats, who will keep their narrow majority for two more years.
Pennsylvania senator-elect John Fetterman suited up and stood with leader Chuck Schumer and fellow senator-elect Peter Welch of Vermont. In the Senate, Schumer took aim at former President Trump's hold on the GOP.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY):
After the failures, Republican failures, in elections in 2018 and 2020 and now in 2022, I hope the message is sinking in. If Republicans continue to embrace MAGA radicalism, they're going to keep losing.
It's a salient issue for Senate Republicans, whose leader, Mitch McConnell, welcomed their five new senators today, but who emerged from a tense Republican luncheon with this to say about the election:
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY):
We underperformed among independents and moderates because their impression of many of the people in our party and leadership roles is that they're involved in chaos, negativity, excessive attacks. And it frightened independent and moderate Republican voters.
I never predicted a red wave. We never saw that in any of our polling in the states that we were counting on to win. There wasn't a wave.
The party is swimming in questions, including this blunt tweet from Senator Josh Hawley over the weekend, writing that: "The old party is dead."
As Republicans contend with their own direction, all of Washington waits for the final numbers on the next Congress.
And Lisa is here now to dive into how these power dynamics will play into what does and does not get done on Capitol Hill in the coming months and years.
So, you have been literally running back and forth from House to Senate covering these leadership discussions.
Where does everything stand in the House and the Senate?
We still don't have that majority 218 for House Republicans yet.
Let's look at what we do know. This is the races called by the Associated Press at this moment. We have 206 Democratic seats, 217 Republican seats. That is one seat short of the majority.
Judy, looking at the races that are remaining, I have five that Republicans are winning, so they would end with 222 seats. It looks like that's coming in. We just don't know when, some time very soon. Republicans are eager for that, as you would understand.
But today was such a day of reflection and consternation, finger-pointing among Republicans on both sides of the Capitol. And let's start first with those House Republicans. Kevin McCarthy did come out from his leadership election, and he does claim that he will get the 218 votes he needs by January.
However, Republican Matt Gaetz of Florida came out and said: No, he is not going to get those votes. I don't think he can possibly.
It's sort of a classic who is going to come out on top. McCarthy admitted, yes, he is negotiating over the rules. How much power he would have as speaker is certainly on the table. And he talked about that very clearly.
Then I ran over to the Senate side, where you had Leader Mitch McConnell now facing a leadership challenge as well from Senator Rick Scott of Florida. Is that a serious possibility he could lose his leadership role? No. I don't think that their votes are there for Mitch McConnell to be ousted.
But it is a sign of the divisions within the Republican Party on both sides. Who do you blame for this election? And who do you want in charge?
So, speaking of all the Republicans in the country, we have an announcement apparently coming tonight from former President Trump that he's going to run for re — election again in 2024.
How — what are they saying? Well, you talk to a lot of Republicans. How do they see what it means if he runs?
This is all woven into that narrative about the election. How much do they blame former President Trump and how much do they want to bet on him again in the future?
Judy, I was astounded that today, asking Republicans about a former president of their party, should he run for reelection, almost no one would say yes. Most of them, Judy, to me, we're saying something like, it's early, let's see, that kind of thing.
And you heard from Senate Leader McConnell — or Leader McConnell, when he talked about chaos, when he talked about those kinds of negativities, he's talking about President Trump. He's — he's pointing the finger there.
Others, I think, are waiting. They're seeing what happens with Ron DeSantis in Florida. But, right now, it's sort of a big silence with a side of, which way is the air blowing for Republicans, especially on former President Trump.
So, the Democrats, they're still in control in both houses for the next few weeks.
What is on their agenda?
They do hope to legislate. There's some very big things that we need to watch.
Here's a very quick list. We will continue to talk about this, of course, first of all, funding government. That deadline is coming up in December. But President Biden also would like funding for — more funding for Ukraine and for COVID. And also on that list, Judy, it's very important to look at same-sex marriage, which we will be talking about probably in the next day, and some other agenda items coming up, including the Electoral Count Act reform related to January 6.
So there's still a lot to talk about, not just politics, but policy.
Could be a busy few weeks, both politically and in terms of…
Yes. I'm wearing my one-inch heels, not the bigger heels, the low heels.
You're running in one-inch heels.
All right, we need a video of that.
Lisa Desjardins, thank you.
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Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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