GOP Rides Wave to Position of Power

By Kenneth J. Cooper and Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, November 9, 1994

Energized Republicans yesterday rode a crest of anti-Washington sentiment to win control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years, according to nearly complete returns.

GOP candidates picked up more than the 40 seats needed for a long-awaited House majority and swept from office several big-name Democrats, including former Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (Ill.), Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (Tex.), Intelligence committee Chairman Dan Glickman (Kan.) and Rep. Neal Smith (Iowa), a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. Other GOP gains came at the expense of freshman Democrats and in open seats, largely in southern and border states.

House Speaker Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) trailed slightly early this morning, but even if he prevailed, he would have to give up his speakership now that his party is in the minority. If he loses, Foley would become the first sitting speaker to be defeated since 1862 and the first since the speakership acquired its prestige and power in the modern era.

House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who mobilized a new generation of conservative Republicans to capitalize on Clinton's low popularity and voters' growing contempt for Congress, is set to become the first GOP speaker since Joseph W. Martin of Massachusetts in 1954.

The normally brash Gingrich told a cheering crowd in Georgia last night that "it is a very sobering and very humbling experience" to be on the verge of assuming the speakership of the House. "You really have an obligation to think through how you represent the House," he said. "It's a very serious and solemn obligation."

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Bill Paxon (N.Y.) declared victory for his party about midnight, even before West Coast results made certain that Republicans would control the House in the 104th Congress. "Yes! Yes! Yes! When you've waited this long that's all you can say," Paxon said.

Not one Republican House incumbent had lost as of 3 a.m. today. Despite their losses, 84 percent of Democrats were reelected.

For nearly two years, Republicans have mounted a campaign to block or discredit Clinton's legislative agenda, fuel anti-Democratic sentiment among voters and nationalize the election. In September, nearly all House GOP candidates signed a a "Contract With America" that promised a return to Reaganomics.

With Republicans in control of the House and Senate, Clinton could face a choice of building bipartisan majorities for his legislative agenda or relying heavily on veto powers he did not use once in his first two years.

Rostenkowski (D-Ill.), an 18-term incumbent who was Ways and Means chairman until he was indicted earlier this year, was defeated by little-known Republican lawyer Michael Patrick Flanagan. "I'm going to Washington to clear out my desk," Rostenkowski told supporters in Chicago last night.

Republicans picked up four seats in both North Carolina and Ohio, three in Georgia and two in Illinois and Washington state.

One of the freshman victims was Rep. Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky (D-Pa.), who cast the decisive vote last year for President Clinton's budget and deficit reduction package. Republicans condemned the package as the largest tax increase in history and turned it into a major campaign issue.

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