Republican leadership on Capitol Hill in flux after midterm results

Lawmakers return to Capitol Hill after a drawn-out midterm battle for power. Democrats kept control in the upper chamber, but a Georgia runoff will determine if they gain a seat or return to a 50-50 Senate. The balance of power in the House is still pending as several races are still being counted. All of this has put several key leadership issues in flux for Republicans. Lisa Desjardins reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lawmakers return went to Capitol Hill this week after a drawn-out midterm battle for power in Congress. Democrats have retained control of the Upper Chamber, but a Georgia run-off will determine if they gain a seat or return to the split-down-the-middle 50/50 Senate.

    The balance of power in the Lower Chamber is pending, and several House races are still being counted. The election outcomes and the lack of final results have put several key leadership issues in flux for Republicans.

    Lisa Desjardins has more on all of this.

    Hello to you, Lisa.

    You are at the Capitol it appears. I know you're glad to be there. So let's talk about the House balance of power. We don't have all the results in. Where do things stand. What are you watching?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Much is afoot, Judy. What a plotline we have here in Congress.

    Let's take a look right now with where the races are for the House of Representatives, the balance of power, as we know it, as called by the Associated Press. Here are the races called, the number; 204 Democrats have had races called for them, 212 Republicans.

    As we have been repeating, Kevin McCarthy's Republicans need 218 votes. They do not have that yet in the — in this chamber. And let's look at some of these races that are still close.

    For example, California's 13th Congressional District, we have been talking about this. There you have John Duarte, the pistachio and almond farmer. He is ahead of Adam Gray, whose family is in the dairy business, by just 84 votes. Can you believe that, 61 percent of the expected vote in?

    This is a race where I think Democrats could come back and take this seat, or it could be Republicans. Who knows. The count in California takes a long time and we don't know when we will have the results of that.

    But let me give folks a summary of where we are overall. In the race for the House of Representatives, we now have 19 uncalled races left across the entire country. Now, those 19 are nearly split between Republicans and Democrats, with Republicans have just one more, 10 seats of those nine, that they're leading in.

    But, overall, we're waiting mostly for the West. California has the largest number of seats still. And Arizona also has two seats left.

    Meanwhile, Judy, I just came from House Republicans' meeting. They are holding speeches tonight to determine who their leaders will be in the next session. And, of course, Kevin McCarthy has spoken, says he wants to be speaker. No one stood to challenge him. But it is something that I think we're going to be talking about.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, as you say, you just came for that meeting. What do these numbers mean for Republicans right now?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Kevin McCarthy does not have the 218 votes to be speaker right now. But it does appear he has a majority of the support from his conference.

    There he is. He did not speak to reporters as he went in smiled simply. It's something he wanted that no one spoke against him tonight. However, we are tracking some who may oppose him. Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona is someone from the Freedom Caucus who has said he may challenge or we understand may challenge Speaker McCarthy.

    And let's talk about it. If the Republicans have just a slight-four seat majority, that means Kevin McCarthy needs every Republican to vote for him, except for four or five.

    So let's talk about some who have already indicated openly that they're not on board with Kevin McCarthy yet. That includes Republicans like Matt Gaetz, also in that group, Chip Roy. Also in that group, Thomas Massie, who I spoke with tonight, would not commit either way.

    Kevin McCarthy has no margin for error here. He may come out of tonight's meeting as the nominee, so to speak, for speaker, but it is not clear that he has the votes left, he has enough votes to actually become speaker in January. He will have a great deal of work to do to figure that out and to get those votes. The conservative Freedom Caucus is asking for concessions.

    Those include some different kinds of parliamentary procedures that would tie his hand, give more power to conservatives and the Freedom Caucus. They're not the only ones asking for concessions, though. The entire House Republican Conference realizes, if you have four seats that determine your majority, everyone has power, and everyone is asking for concessions.

    It is a very complicated and potentially chaotic process that the House Republicans are just now beginning to enter.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Reads like a suspense novel.

  • Lisa Desjardins:



  • Judy Woodruff:

    All right, Lisa, so, finally, what about the Senate?

    We know the Democrats did manage to hang onto the majority there, but what does all of that, do the numbers there mean for what they're going to be able to get done?

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You know, it really is only just not even two days since we know that Senate Democrats would be retaining their majority.

    But, already, the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, is making some moves. He has announced that, this week, the Senate will be holding a vote on legislation to codify same-sex marriage in some ways. Essentially, that legislation, which is bipartisan, would mean that any same-sex marriage certified by one state would be recognized by all states.

    That is something that we know some moderate Republicans are on board. We don't know how many, but that's what will come this week. And I think it's not an accident, Judy, that that is after Senate Democrats got this majority. They're saying, we have more to do. We're going to get started now.

    As for Republicans, Judy, lots of finger-pointing there, as you would expect, some unhappy Republicans in the Senate. However, there are a few, including Rick Scott, who ran the Senate Republicans' campaign, pointing fingers at their leader, Mitch McConnell, and saying, we need to delay our leadership elections. We're not sure that we think McConnell is the person to do it.

    But I want to report that they are in the minority. Mitch McConnell is going ahead with elections on Wednesday And, right now, I have no reason to doubt that he will continue to be the Republican leader in the Senate.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, a lot of suspense in the Senate too.

  • Lisa Desjardins:


  • Judy Woodruff:

    Lisa Desjardins watching it all very closely.

    Thank you, Lisa.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You're welcome.

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