Democrats clinched two more years of controlling the House but with a potentially razor-thin majority, a bittersweet finale to last week's elections that has left them divided and with scant margin for error for advancing their agenda. The party on Tuesday nailed down at least 218 seats, according to the AP (which declared three winners late Tuesday: incumbents Kim Schrier in Washington, Tom O’Halleran in Arizona, and Jimmy Gomez in California), and could win a few others when more votes are counted. While that assures command of the 435-member chamber, blindsided Democrats were all but certain to see their current 232-seat majority shrink after an unforeseen surge of Republican voters transformed expected gains of perhaps 15 seats into losses potentially approaching that amount. “We have the gavel, we have the gavel,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who seems all but certain to continue in that role.
By retaining the House, Democrats will control the chamber for four consecutive years for only the second time since 1995, when Republicans ended 40 years of Democratic dominance. Yet though Joe Biden won the presidential election, there's a strong chance Republicans will keep Senate control. That would force Democrats to scale back their dreams of sweeping health care, infrastructure and other initiatives, instead needing compromises with the GOP. Republicans have been heartened by the House results, which many believe position them for a strong run for the majority in the 2022 elections. With some races remaining undecided, it was possible that in the new Congress that convenes in January Democrats will have the smallest majority since Republicans had just 221 seats two decades ago. (Read more House Democrats stories.)