Midterms 2010: Republicans Split Congress by Reclaiming House of Representatives

Daily News Article   —   Posted on November 3, 2010

Note: This article is from the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

(by Toby Harnden and Alex Spillius, Telegraph.co.uk) WASHINGTON, DC – President Barack Obama suffered a stunning rebuke just two years after he won the White House as a resurgent Republican Party captured the House of Representatives and gained a handful of Senate seats in midterm elections.

Republicans would pick up at least 60 House seats, more than the 39 they needed for a majority that would elevate conservative John Boehner to House speaker, put Republicans in charge of House committees and slam the brakes on Obama’s agenda.

It surpassed the Republican gains in 1994, when President Bill Clinton’s Democrats lost 54 House seats, and was the biggest shift in power since Democrats lost 75 House seats in 1948.  [CORRECTION:  The Democrats WON 75 House seats in 1948.  This 2010 election, where Republicans won 60 House seats, is the largest number of House pickups since then.]

“Our new majority will be prepared to do things differently,” John Boehner, the incoming House speaker said. “It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it, reducing the size of government instead of increasing it, and reforming the way Congress works.”

The Democrats keep a narrow lead in the Senate, which will give the party considerable leverage against what is expected to be a barrage of Republican legislation from the House designed to unpick President Barack Obama’s achievements in his first two years.

The party had 51 seats and was likely to win one of the three continuing contests in Washington state, Colorado, Alaska.

Early in the evening the Republicans celebrated as Tea Party favourites Marco Rubio and Rand Paul won in Florida and Kentucky respectively.

Mr. Paul achieved the historic feat of becoming the first member of the anti-tax, small-government Tea Party to win a Senate seat. The committed libertarian, son of Representative Ron Paul, who was a maverick 2008 presidential candidate, prevailed in Kentucky.

In his victory speech, he proclaimed that “tonight there is a Tea Party tidal wave and we are sending a message” He continued: “It’s a message of fiscal sanity, limited constitutional government and balanced budgets.”

Mr. Rubio delivered a warning to the Republican leadership in Washington that the party had to learn from the mistakes made after it last won a majority in 1994, when it abandoned the principles of balanced budgets and small government.

“We make a grave mistake if we believe tonight these results will somehow embrace the Republican Party. What they are is a second chance. A second chance for Republicans to be what they said they were going to be, not so long ago,” he said.

In the Senate, Republicans picked up Democratic seats in Indiana, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Arkansas as well as Mr. Obama’s former seat in Illinois.

In Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Senate Majority Leader narrowly beat Sharron Angle, another Tea Party favourite also supported by Sarah Palin, the vice-presidential candidate in 2008.

In an emotional victory speech Mr. Reid, a former boxer, repeatedly compared his election fight to his time in the ring.

Amid chants of “Harry, Harry,” he told supporters: “Yes, we did.” He said: “Today, Nevada chose hope over fear. Nevada chose to move forward not backwards. Today you have made possible what many thought impossible.

“I wish my voice could convey what’s in my heart – thank you, thank you, thank you. You never gave up because you know Nevadans never give up.” He went on: “I’m not finished fighting. In fact tonight I’m more determined than ever.

Democrats took solace in Joe Manchin’s victory in West Virginia and Barbara Boxer beating Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett Packard chief executive, in California. In Colorado Michael Bennet was on course to defeat Tea Party-backed Republican Ken Buck.

In the House, Congressman John Boehner became the new Speaker, succeeding Nancy Pelosi, who became the first woman to hold the post in 2006.

In a tearful victory speech, he said: “We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making the changes they are demanding. To the extent he is willing to do this, we are ready to work with him.

“But make no mistake, the president will find in our new majority the voice of the American people as they’ve expressed it tonight: standing on principle, checking Washington’s power, and leading the drive for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government.”

The White House confirmed later that Mr Obama had spoken to Mr Boehner and the President said he was “looking forward to working with him and the Republicans to find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the American people.”

A majority of women, less well-off voters and Catholics – all groups that helped Mr Obama win the White House – said in opinion polls that they would back Republican candidates this time over their Democrat opponents, while turnout among young and black voters looked to have dropped.

As well as the votes for Congress, there were elections for 37 state governorships that would decide how the US is run at a regional level and also affect the redrawing of electoral district boundaries.

Information appearing on telegraph.co.uk is the copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited and must not be reproduced in any medium without licence. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Telegraph. Visit the website at telegraph.co.uk. 

Questions

1.  a) How many seats did Republicans need to win a majority in the House?
b)  How many seats did they win?
c)  How does this number compare with the number of seats won by Republicans in 1994 under President Bill Clinton, when for the first time in 40 years Republicans became the majority in the House?
d)  Besides 1994, when was the last big loss for Democrats? (How many seats did Republicans win at that time?)

2.  a) Who is the current Speaker of the House?
b)  Who will become the new Speaker of the House?

3.  What issues will Republicans focus on as the majority, according to the new Speaker?

4.  What is the main focus of the Republicans’ message for how they will govern?

5.  What power does the Constitution give to the House of Representatives that directly affects Americans every day?

6.  a) Why do you think the Congressional election was such a landslide for the Republicans?
b)  Ask a parent the same question.


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Background

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

  • The Constitution grants the House several exclusive powers: the power to initiate revenue bills (introduce bills that make people pay taxes), to impeach officials, and to elect the President in case of an Electoral College deadlock.
  • There are a total of 435 members in the House of Representatives.
  • Each member represents an area of a state, known as a congressional district.
  • The number of representatives is based on the number of districts in a state. Each state is guaranteed one seat. Every ten years, the U.S. Census Bureau counts the population of the states to determine the number of districts in each state.
  • Representatives, elected for two-year terms, must be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years, and a resident of the state from which they are elected.
  • Five additional members-from Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia-represent their constituencies in the House. While they may participate in the debates, they cannot vote.
NOTE ON Why the election of a majority of governors from one political party over another matters so much this year:
  • Redistricting takes place every ten years after the census. This is a census year.
  • Redistricting is the process by which the boundaries of elective districts are periodically redrawn to maintain equal representation on the basis of population.
  • Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour said “The governors who are elected this year will preside over redistricting. The census this year means that we must reapportion, redistrict both the U.S. House and both houses of the state legislature in the next two years. Thirty-nine governors have a role in reapportionment. Many of them can veto the redistricting plan. That matters.”
  • Governors can make sure – by wielding their veto pens – that when the boundaries of congressional districts in their states are redrawn they’re drawn in a way that makes it easier for their own party’s candidates to win those seats. It’s a longtime practice known as gerrymandering, and both parties do it when they can.
  • So governors can help tilt the playing field in presidential elections. They can literally help design the playing field for congressional elections and they also shape national debates about policy.
    (from npr.org.)
  • In 36 states, the state legislature has primary responsibility for creating a redistricting plan, in many cases subject to approval by the state governor. To reduce the role that legislative politics might play, five states (Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, New Jersey and Washington), carry out congressional redistricting by an independent or bipartisan commission. Two states, Iowa and Maine, give independent bodies authority to propose redistricting plans, but preserve the role of legislatures to approve them. Seven states have only a single representative for the entire state because of their low populations; these are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming.
    (from wikipedia.org/wiki/Redistricting)