The man likely to lead House Republicans when they take control of Congress next year said Wednesday that his party is “humbled” by winning the 60-plus seats that have delivered the chamber to the GOP, and said the House’s first order of business under Republican control will be to reduce spending.
Rep. John A. Boehner of Ohio, who is likely to become the next speaker of the House, told reporters he doesn’t know what the first spending-cuts test will be, and added that the GOP also will need to lay the groundwork for repealing President Obama’s health care law.
But he said the larger message from Tuesday’s elections is that people want a smaller government.
“We’re humbled by the trust the American people have placed in us,” he said.
Republicans netted at least five dozen House seats Tuesday and captured six Senate seats, with three more seats still to be decided. Democrats, though, will retain control of the upper chamber with at least 51 seats, giving them a bare majority.
By winning the House, Republicans have gained the ability to put a brake on Mr. Obama’s agenda over the next two years.
Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who led her troops to big wins in 2006 and 2008 before surrendering all of those gains this week, said in a statement she didn’t regret the hard-charging path her party took.
“Over the last four years, the Democratic majority in the House took courageous action on behalf of America’s middle class to create jobs and save the country from the worst economic catastrophe since the Great Depression,” she said.
She said Democrats’ priorities going forward would be work on jobs and reducing the deficit.
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, who won what was the night’s most bruising race over Republican “tea party” challenger Sharron Angle, took a far more confrontational approach.
“Now that Republicans have more members in both houses of Congress, they must take their responsibility to present bipartisan solutions more seriously,” he said. “Simply saying ‘no’ will do nothing to create more jobs, support our middle-class and strengthen our economy.”
The results from Indiana, Ohio and Virginia, where Democrats lost at least nine House seats, were particularly brutal for Mr. Obama, who even made a personal campaign stop last Friday in Charlottesville, Va., in a futile bid to rescue Democratic freshman Rep. Tom Perriello. Mr. Obama won the White House in 2008 in part because he was able to sway voters in those states.
Among those ousted nationwide were three committee chairmen, Rep. John M. Spratt of South Carolina, Rep. James L. Oberstar of Minnesota and Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, who between them have 98 years of experience in the House.
Republicans also picked up Senate seats in North Dakota, Indiana, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania, though their dreams of taking the Senate slipped away as Democrats held on to seats in West Virginia, Connecticut, California and Nevada.
Still undecided as of midmorning Wednesday were Senate races in Washington, Alaska and Colorado.
Republicans saw the election as a call to roll back spending and other legislative achievements Mr. Obama has notched, though they said they will not overestimate their mandate.
“We make a grave mistake if we believe, tonight, these results are somehow an embrace of the Republican Party. What they are is a second chance,” said Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, who cruised to an easy victory in Florida in one of the night’s premier races.
The elections likely anointed several rising Republican stars, including Mr. Rubio, Sen.-elect Rand Paul in Kentucky and Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, all of whom won races to keep seats held by retiring Republicans.
And Republicans added two black congressman to their ranks with Rep.-elect Tim Scott’s victory in an open seat in South Carolina and Rep.-elect Allen West’s victory over two-term Rep. Ron Klein in Florida — another candidate for whom Mr. Obama personally campaigned.
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