Sessions predicts ‘slightly over 40’ House seats gained by Republicans

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) predicted Sunday that Republicans will win just enough House seats come November to gain control of the House.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee said he was confident the GOP will become the majority party in the House for the next Congress.

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”I think we’re going to be slightly over 40,” Sessions told David Gregory when asked for a specific number on how many House seats Republicans will win.

That would give Republicans just enough seats to win the House. The GOP needs to win 39 House seats in the fall elections to take control of the chamber. Sessions’s counterpart, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, disagreed with his prediction.

“I know these guys are popping the champagne bottles already over there, but the fact of the matter is the Democrats will retain a majority in the House,” Van Hollen said. 

Also on the program were Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. 

Like Van Hollen, Menendez said he was confident Democrats will keep a majority in the Senate. 

Cornyn said he was happy with the election outlook right now, noting that Republican candidates were competitive in eight races for Senate seats held by Democrats. But unlike Sessions, Cornyn did not say how many Senate seats Republicans would win in the 2010 elections. 

“I don’t know,” Cornyn said. 

Earlier on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Republican candidates are “either competitive or ahead in 11 different states now where there are Democratic incumbent senators.”

McConnell didn’t predict a number, though, instead saying, “If the election were today, we would have a good day. ... I’d like to be in better shape than the 41 that we have now. And I think the chances of that are pretty good.” 

Both Cornyn and Sessions said Republican candidates would run on a platform of lowering the national deficit. They said voters are tired of increased government spending under the Obama administration.

“We must live within our own means, we cannot spend what we don’t have, and we must be able to sustain what we’re doing,” Sessions said.

Cornyn said voters are also looking for a check on the White House and Democrats, and will look to Republicans to provide that balance.

“I think what people are looking for are checks and balances. They’ve had single-party government, and it’s scaring the living daylights out of them,” the Texas senator said. 

But Menendez, his Democratic counterpart, said the GOP wants a return to the policies of the George W. Bush administration, which Democrats believe is to blame for the poor economy. 

“If the check and balance is the malaise of the Bush years in which incomes for families remained stagnant and jobs were lost, if the check and balance is to be with big oil, big insurance, and Wall Street against the average individual, then that’s where the Republican Party is at,” Menendez said. He also said the Senate GOP is impeding economic progress now by filibustering job-creating legislation in the upper chamber.

As evident with Menendez and Van Hollen on Sunday, the Democrats’ electoral strategy is to tie GOP candidates to the last Republican president as much as possible. Several times on the show, Van Hollen said Republicans want a return of Bush’s economic policies, which he blamed for America’s record job losses. 

Cornyn also defended the Tea Party movement that has had a hand in several GOP Senate primaries this year, boosting candidates like Sharron Angle in Nevada and Rand Paul in Kentucky. He called the recent NAACP resolution labeling the Tea Party as racist “slanderous.”

“There’s just no basis for it,” Cornyn said. 

Van Hollen said the Tea Party movement would be “a mixed bag” for Republican candidates during the elections. On one hand, Tea Party activists would provide “a lot of energy” during the campaign for the GOP.

“On the other hand, it is driving a lot of their candidates farther and farther to the right,” Van Hollen said.