* Boehner warns against raising U.S. tax rates
* New House may look much like the old House
* Tea Party still a factor
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON, Nov 7 It may have been the most
unpopular U.S. House of Representatives in modern times, but
that did not stop voters on Tuesday from leaving it firmly in
Republican hands, according to projections.
The election results might disappoint those who had hoped
for new and clear marching orders from voters on such issues as
the deficit or immigration.
A contented House Speaker John Boehner told party faithful
at an election-night rally that he and fellow Republicans had
"offered solutions and the American people want solutions and
tonight they responded by renewing our House Republican
While Boehner said he would work with "any willing partner,"
he warned political opponents that he would continue battling
Democratic moves to raise taxes on the rich.
"With this vote, the American people also made clear there's
no mandate for raising tax rates," Boehner said.
The results could mean at least two more years of divided
U.S. government as Democratic President Obama won re-election
and Democrats were projected to retain control of the Senate.
With the projected Republican win in the House, the partisan
brand of politics the party practiced for the past two years
appeared not to have seriously damaged its brand.
When the new House is sworn in next January, it will look
much like the House that nearly brought about government
shutdowns and a historic default on debt in 2011.
Sarah Binder, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution,
said Republicans could now be situated to hold their majority in
the House for quite some time. She spoke of a "structural
advantage" the party holds "because of the way Republican voters
are spread out over the country ... with strength in suburban
and rural areas."
Binder added that unexpected "wave elections," such as the
ones that swept Democrats into power in the House in 2006 and
Republicans in 2010, while not the norm, could interrupt a
party's long run in the majority.
The bitter partisanship in the 435-member chamber - a thorn
in Obama's side - was thought to have contributed to record low
public approval ratings of Congress that at one point dipped to
If voters did not like the overall tenor of Congress for the
past two years, they seemed to remain satisfied with their
Election results were still coming in, but it appeared as if
Boehner would preside over a House next year that is close to
the 240 Republicans and 190 Democrats who now populate the
"lower chamber." Currently, there also are five vacancies.
FISCAL DEALMAKING AHEAD?
"The upshot is that the voters are saying to President Obama
and Speaker Boehner: 'Go back to the bargaining table; finish
the deal,'" said David Kendall, a senior fellow at Third Way, a
centrist think tank in Washington.
Kendall was referring to the intensive negotiations Obama
and Boehner held during the summer of 2011, which ultimately
fell apart but were aimed at bringing around $4 trillion in
deficit reductions over 10 years.
Following that breakdown, many congressional leaders said
that only the 2012 elections could settle the
Democratic-Republican dispute over taxes and spending that stood
in the way of an Obama-Boehner handshake.
On election night two years ago, the so-called Tea Party
faction shook Washington's political establishment as
conservative Republicans rode that small-government movement to
a tidal wave victory.
Suddenly, skyrocketing federal debt, which Republicans said
threatened to swamp the struggling economy and hamper job
creation, dominated the national conversation.
It was in large part due to the Tea Party that Republicans
wrested control of the House from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi and
Two years later, voters displayed some fatigue with the Tea
Party as some of the movement's stars were either defeated in
their Senate bids or faced difficult re-election bids in the
Freshman Representative Joe Walsh, a Tea Party favorite, was
projected to lose his race against Democrat Tammy Duckworth, an
Iraq war veteran who lost both her legs in combat. The Illinois
district is near Chicago, Obama's hometown.
Even so, Republicans were not expected to abandon the
central tenets of Tea Party ideology, especially with other Tea
Party activists, such as Steve King in Iowa, winning
"There will still be enough Republicans enamored by the Tea
Party idea against raising taxes," said Youngstown State
University political science professor Paul Sracic. "We're
looking at a huge struggle in the lame-duck and next year," he
said of the post-election session of Congress and 2013 fights
over tax policy.
STARS COME AND GO
Besides fights over taxes and spending, the Republican House
and Democratic Senate likely will have an opportunity to clash
over other large initiatives.
A senior Democratic aide said the Senate was likely to send
the House an Obama jobs package that Republicans previously
denounced. The aide said the Senate could also produce an
immigration reform bill - if it could garner the
"super-majority" necessary for all major bills - that would also
present Republicans with problems.
When the new House convenes in January, it will do so
without a couple of its most colorful politicians: Former
presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the Democrat who early
in his career gained fame as the "boy mayor" of Cleveland, was
defeated in a primary race earlier this year. Ron Paul, the
libertarian who is sometimes referred to as the father of the
Tea Party movement, has retired.
But there will still be plenty of interesting characters in
the new House, including the natty Democratic Representative
Charles Rangel. This 82-year-old from New York City survived
ethics charges in 2010 and was projected to win a 22nd two-year
House Democrats will await former Pelosi's decision on
whether she will stay on as Democratic leader now that she has
again failed to engineer her party's takeover of the House.
The new House could have one other bit of star power: Paul
Ryan lost his bid to become the next vice president. But the
Republican, who has made the federal budget the focus of his 14
years in the House, appeared headed for re-election to his
Wisconsin seat. He will have to decide if he still wants it or
prefers to move to a bigger stage outside government.