Democrats started the year with a slim House majority, and it could get even tighter because of five vacancies.
The death Tuesday of Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., reduces the party’s majority temporarily to 218-212.
Three Democrats left the House to join the Biden administration: presidential adviser Cedric Richmond, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. There is also one vacant Republican seat after the death of GOP Texas Rep. Ron Wright in February.
With the five vacancies, 216 votes are needed for a majority, CBS News noted. And with such a tenuous grip, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., can only afford to lose two Democrat votes on any legislation opposed by all Democrats.
House Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., was already worried in December, telling reporters, “I’m certainly concerned by the slimming of the majority.”
“We’re going to be a very unified caucus as we were this past Congress,” Hoyer said then, Fox News reported.
That’s been the case so far.
The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package passed the House with just two Democrats defecting on the first vote, and just one on the revised bill that came back from the Senate, Fox News reported.
The House passed two bills expanding background checks on gun sales with just one Democrat voting against one measure and two Democrats defecting on the other, the news outlet also noted.
And there were also just two House Democrats who voted against the party’s police reform bill – and just one defection on the Democrats’ election and campaign finance reform legislation.
Democrats are now left with little room for error as they mull using budget reconciliation to pass a massive infrastructure bill, which would allow it to pass with a simple majority in the Senate, CBS News noted.
Congress used budget reconciliation to pass the relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan, which only one House Democrat, Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, voted against. Golden, who represents a centrist district in Maine, will be a key swing vote in the coming months, CBS News reported.
Other moderate members of the House who represent districts that former President Donald Trump won may also use their influence on the controversial legislation.
Meanwhile, the upcoming special elections to fill the empty House seats could either reinforce Democrats or tip the balance.
“It’s never ideal to have a narrow majority, but if there’s one person who knows how to walk that tightrop effectively, it’s Speaker Pelosi,” Democrat strategist Meredith Kelly told Fox News. “She gives vulnerable member leeway when they need it, and receives loyalty at key moments in return.”
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