Republican U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy said his party will win the House majority in the Nov. 2 elections and could gain as many as 59 seats.
“We’ll capture the majority,” McCarthy, chief recruiter of Republican candidates for the House, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing this weekend. Asked whether his party may gain as many as five dozen seats, the two-term California congressman said “we could post as high as 59.”
Polls show that Republicans, running on a platform of change, are poised to regain control from House Democrats. They need a net gain of 39 seats to reach that threshold. Republicans have a 47 percent to 44 percent edge among likely voters in congressional races, according to a Bloomberg National Poll conducted Oct. 24-26.
In a separate interview on “Political Capital,” U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, who leads the Democratic Senate campaign, said his party will do better than expected in that chamber and predicted an upset win in the Illinois race for President Barack Obama’s old seat.
“We will, number one, be in the majority in the Senate as Democrats after Nov. 2,” Menendez of New Jersey said.
McCarthy, 45, the Republican chief deputy whip, said he doesn’t see his party reaching a compromise with Democrats on extending Bush-era income-tax cuts during a lame-duck session after the elections.
Tax Cut Extension
Democrats and Republicans are deadlocked over who should be covered by an extension of the tax cuts, enacted in 2001 and 2003, that are set to expire at the end of this year. Democrats want to continue the lower tax rates for families earning up to $250,000 a year, while Republicans insist on keeping the cuts for higher-income Americans as well.
“The best compromise is not to raise taxes in a recession,” McCarthy said. “The best perspective here is end the uncertainty, give an extension and start focusing on small-business growth.”
McCarthy said Republicans will immediately begin making good on their pledge to cut federal spending. He refused to say whether those reductions would come from programs such as Pell Grants to help low-income students pay for college or funding for National Institutes of Health research into diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer’s.
“People go out and pick the special little places,” he said. “We would look at all discretionary spending outside of security.”
“You could find so many other places to cut before you even touch those,” McCarthy said.
Even so, he questioned whether all NIH money is going to actual research. He pointed to a grant to a college professor to study Congress’s votes on the health-care overhaul, adding “is that the best use of money?”
House Republicans, in their “Pledge to America” agenda announced in September, promised to cut $100 billion in domestic spending programs if they take power. The unspecified cuts would come from non-defense domestic discretionary programs, which totaled $477 billion in the 2010 budget. Social Security and Medicare would be excluded from the proposed 21 percent reductions.
Fewer than one-third of the Bloomberg poll respondents -- 31 percent -- say they support cutting federal spending in areas such as education and health care.
Opposition to Gridlock
Voters in the Bloomberg poll overwhelmingly say they don’t want a Republican takeover to result in congressional gridlock. Four-fifths say they want Republicans and Democrats to work together to get things done, as opposed to rigidly sticking to principles.
“We need to have solutions,” McCarthy said when asked about that finding. He said Republicans promise to work toward a balanced budget and “get this country back under control. That is a principle that I think America wants to see happen, and that’s something that we will fight for.”
Asked about a possible surprise victory by Republicans next week, McCarthy said challenger Andy Vidak would defeat Democratic Representative Jim Costa in California.
“No one’s been watching it and it hasn’t been on anybody’s radar screen,” he said.
Menendez, 56, said surprises will continue in the elections, similar to the losses in primaries by some Republican incumbents, and he dismissed a forecast his party will lose eight seats in the Senate.
“We may very well do better than that,” he said. Democrats control the Senate 59-41, and Republicans need a net gain of 10 seats to take the majority. Menendez predicted that Illinois Democrat Alexi Giannoulias will win his race against Republican Representative Mark Kirk to keep Obama’s former Senate seat in Democratic control.
Illinois Republican Chairman Pat Brady said in an e-mail that Menendez’s “happy talk will not change the results on election day when Illinois voters support Mark Kirk.”
Menendez also said Democrats have a good chance of picking up a seat in Alaska, where Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski is seeking re-election as a write-in candidate after her upset loss in the primary to Tea Party-backed candidate Joe Miller.
Miller’s campaign is struggling, creating an opportunity for Democratic candidate Scott McAdams, mayor of Sitka, in the three-way contest.
“He has a real shot of winning,” Menendez said. “Every poll shows that he has risen dramatically.”