UPDATE 1-Republicans set to win US House majority in midterm elections

(Adds McCarthy wins Republican leadership vote, another race called)

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) – Republicans edged closer to majority control of the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday, a midterm victory tempered by the surprisingly narrow margin they hold over Democrats as they inaugurate two years of divided government.

Republicans have so far won 216 seats in the 435-member chamber, according to Edison Research projections, of which 218 are needed for a majority. Calls for close races in states like California and Colorado later on Tuesday would likely see Republicans wrest control of the House from Speaker Joe Biden’s Democrats, who trail with 206 seats.

The news could coincide with a 9 p.m. ET (0200 GMT Wednesday) speech by former President Donald Trump from his home in Florida, where he is expected to announce his 2024 presidential bid even as his Republican Party shows early signs of Trump fatigue.

The Republicans’ expected House victory will fall far short of the “red wave” they predicted for the Nov. 8 midterm elections, and some party members blamed Trump for the disappointing performance.

Democrats retained control of the U.S. Senate after retaining seats in the swing states of Arizona and Nevada, and could win an outright majority if Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeats Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a runoff in Georgia on December 6.

A divided Congress next year will mean Biden will have a much harder time pushing his agenda — from expanding national social programs and raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to aiding Ukraine. in his battle against Russia.

Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, in a closed caucus vote, resisted a challenge from hardline conservative Rep. Andy Biggs and will be the party’s nominee for House Speaker, if Republicans win the majority.

As Speaker of the House, McCarthy would be the second successor to the presidency after the vice president when Congress convenes in January.

The President, elected by the House as a whole, sets the legislative agenda for the heavy house and the political tone of the ruling party. If successful in her bid for president, McCarthy would succeed Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

In retaliation for two impeachment efforts by Democrats against Trump, House conservatives are already preparing to investigate Biden administration officials and President Hunter’s son’s past business dealings with China and other countries — and even Biden himself.

They have publicly talked about seeking cost savings in the Social Security and Medicare safety net programs, and making permanent tax cuts enacted in 2017 that are set to expire.

But much of their agenda could be scuttled by the Senate, where Democrats retained their majority, as well as Biden’s veto power over legislation.

Midterm ballots from Nov. 8 are still being counted in races across the country a week after the vote. Late Monday, Democrat Katie Hobbs was tipped as the winner of Arizona’s hotly contested gubernatorial contest, beating Kari Lake, one of the most high-profile Republican candidates to embrace the bogus voter fraud allegations of Trump in 2020.

Lake hasn’t given in yet. After the race call, she tweeted, “Arizonans know BS when they see him.”

(Reporting by Richard Cowan Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Alistair Bell)

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