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As vote counting continues, both chambers of Congress remain too close to call

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

With results still coming in, control of both chambers of Congress remain undetermined. A December recount will decide the winner of Georgia's Senate race between the incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. And key Senate races in Arizona and Nevada are still too close to call. As for the House, Republicans are seeing modest gains so far, but nothing close to a red wave that many in their party had hoped for. Yet House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy ended last night ensuring that the GOP would claim a victory.

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KEVIN MCCARTHY: When you wake up tomorrow, we will be in the majority, and Nancy Pelosi will be in the minority.

(CHEERING)

NADWORNY: The timing of that prediction didn't pan out for McCarthy. NPR's Deirdre Walsh, who was at GOP headquarters on election night, joins us now. Hey, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE WALSH, BYLINE: Hey, Elissa.

NADWORNY: OK. So that was last night. Today, McCarthy wrote a letter intending to run for majority leader. But it's kind of too soon, maybe, to boast that his party is going to gain control of the House, right?

WALSH: Right. He officially launched his bid for speaker last night. He was definitely a little bit premature. You know, Democrats I talked to today say they would have to do everything right. There is technically a path for them to get to the majority, but they admit that they believe that Republicans will end up with the House majority when we know all the results. But it will be, obviously, a much smaller majority than people expected.

I mean, you know, I think for McCarthy, you know, he has to balance a lot of blowback for the expectations that he and his top allies set for this midterm election. At one point, he said they could pick up 60 seats. Then, you know, in the final days, there were predictions about 20 to 23 seats. You know, they did knock off the head of the House Democrats Campaign Committee, Sean Patrick Maloney. That was, you know, something that hasn't happened in more than 40 years. But, you know, they did not flip a majority of the competitive races. And we're still waiting for results in a lot of those.

NADWORNY: The fact that it's so close, what impact is that going to have on McCarthy's future and the ability for him to kind of govern his own caucus?

WALSH: Right now, there's no one challenging McCarthy to become the next speaker if that's what ends up happening. He will face an election next week in his conference. Right now, I expect he could win that. But he also has to win a full House vote in January. There is an eternity between November and January in politics. So he could face a lot of challenges if he has a much smaller Republican majority, with some House Republicans making demands for things that they want in exchange for their votes. So I think this is going to be a real unsettling time for McCarthy and the Republican conference in the weeks ahead.

NADWORNY: Let's go to the Senate. What races are you watching closely?

WALSH: Really, right now, it's come down to Arizona and Nevada. As you said, we don't know the close - the results in those contests yet. In Arizona, Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly has a small lead, but it could take some time to finish counting those results against Republican Blake Masters. In Nevada, Democratic incumbent Catherine Cortez Masto, the only Latina Democrat in the Senate, also has a small lead. Actually, I think her opponent, Republican Adam Laxalt, has a small lead. But we're still waiting on results. And as you mentioned, we're going to have a runoff in Georgia. So control of the Senate might not be decided until December.

NADWORNY: Wow. That was NPR's Deirdre Walsh. Thanks so much for being with us.

WALSH: Thanks, Elissa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Deirdre Walsh is the congress editor for NPR's Washington Desk.