As major election watchers on Wednesday officially announced that Republicans had secured a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives by winning at least 218 seats, top Democrats—whose party maintains control of the White House and Senate—tried to send a message of hope.
Appearing on MSNBC Wednesday night, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) highlighted progressive candidates who won and the state-level ballot measures that passed, including initiatives legalizing marijuana, protecting abortion rights, expanding Medicaid, and raising the minimum wage.
“I think the lesson for us here is we might have to be an opposition party in the House, with Republican leadership… but we also have to be a proposition party,” said Jayapal, chair of Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). “We have to show people what we stand for—give people hope that if we get into office, we will do what we did again in this last term.”
“The line of defense is gonna be in the Senate and the White House,” Jayapal explained. “What we might get in the House—I hate this—but what we might get is a really sharp contrast: Republicans trying to strip Social Security and Medicare” while Democrats attempt to protect key rights and recent progress.
During the campaign season for this past cycle, Republican candidates made clear they wanted to try to use the fight over raising the debt ceiling to force spending cuts, specifically targeting Social Security and Medicare. Along with passing appropriation legislation during the lame-duck session, the CPC leader stressed that “we also do need to make sure to take some tools that they’re gonna use to hold us hostage off the table—so that’s the debt ceiling.”
However, as Common Dreams reported earlier Wednesday, the White House and congressional leadership aren’t pushing for a Democrats-only budget reconciliation package to lift the debt limit before the end of the year, fearing they don’t have the votes. Instead, they’re hoping for a bipartisan deal, though there are no signs from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) or House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that they’ll get one.
McCarthy on Tuesday won the nomination for House speaker, defeating Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) of the Freedom Caucus 188-31.
The New York Times noted that his “nomination was only the opening act in what was shaping up to be a long and painful path to the speakership, and it exposed bitter divisions within the party, with the hard-right faction of Mr. McCarthy’s conference—many of whom have sought for years to weaken him—newly emboldened after a disappointing showing for the party in the midterm elections, and eager to squeeze him for concessions.”
Jayapal on Wednesday cast doubt on McCarthy’s leadership, especially compared with that of outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
“They do not have an accomplished speaker the way that we’ve had Speaker Pelosi,” she said of the GOP. “They have Kevin McCarthy, who is not gonna be able to bring that caucus—in my view—together. They’re gonna fight with each other.”
According to Jayapal, “It is going to be—instead of Dems in disarray, which always used to be a problem; we were described that way—this is Republicans in ruin.”
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, congratulated McCarthy on the GOP winning the lower chamber and said that he is “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.”
Originally published at Commondreams.org.