The Republican Takeover in Context

  • John E. Owens


An electoral earthquake hit the American political landscape in 1994. For the first time since 1954, the Republican Party won control of the House of Representatives, and at the same time gained control of the Senate for the first time since 1986. Not for 40 years, then, had Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, and only for the third time since the beginning of the twentieth century had the Republicans won control of Congress with a Democrat incumbent in the White House.1 When the Republicans won their majorities in 1994, they ended the longest uninterrupted period of single-party rule in the entire history of Congress. Just one member — 88-year-old Sidney Yates, a Democrat from Illinois — had ever served in a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Republicans gained 52 seats from Democrats in the House, including those of 34 Democratic incumbents. Democratic losses in the House were the heaviest for either party in any mid-term election since Harry Truman’s Democratic Party lost 55 seats in the 1946 elections. Between 1946 and 1994, the next highest losses were in 1982 following the worst recession since the 1930s, and then they were only half those of 1994. For the first time since 1952, the Democrats’ percentage of the vote fell below 50 per cent. Among the Democratic casualties were House Speaker Tom Foley (D.WA), who became the first Speaker to lose his seat since 1862, former Ways and Means chair Dan Rostenkowski (D.IL), and Judiciary chair Jack Brooks (D.TX).


Republican Party Congressional Election Public Approval Democratic President Public Enemy 
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  1. 1.
    The other occasions were the 66th (1919–20) and 80th Congresses (1947–8). Republicans controlled both houses in the 83rd Congress, but a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, occupied the White House. This was also the case during most of the period before 1932.Google Scholar
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© John E. Owens 1998

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  • John E. Owens

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