Narrow house

Narrow House majority to test Democratic unity in Biden administration

After two years in power with a comfortable margin to lose votes in their own ranks, House Democratic leaders will enter the 117th Congress with new pressure to keep progressives and moderates united or be forced to work far more often. across the aisle with Republican House Leader Kevin. McCarthy.

“It defines our challenge,” said Representative Dan Kildee, a Democrat from Michigan. “We’re going to have to push hard to show that everyone’s point of view is legitimate, but the test will be to try not to allow certain voices to stop us from moving anything because it’s not. the biggest and boldest thing they can think of … be tough. “

Democrats won 222 House seats compared to Republicans 211, according to CNN projections, with several races yet to be called. Democrats held a majority of 35 seats before election day.
But after losing incumbents across the country and failing to topple a single House Republican, Democrats’ problems have been exacerbated in recent weeks since Biden picked two House Democrats – Reps Marcia Fudge of Ohio and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana – to serve in his administration. Although both members are from safe Democratic districts, it will take time for them to be replaced. What was once a small margin can now be reduced to a handful of votes.

“I am certainly concerned about the thinning of the majority. I indicated early on to the administration that I wanted them to pay close attention to the members they appoint to Congress,” the leader of the majority in the House, Steny Hoyer.

Hoyer argued, however, that “there have been narrow majorities before”.

“We got over them and did our job. I think, frankly, we’re going to be a very unified caucus,” said the Democrat of Maryland.

Pelosi made the same argument.

“Here’s what you need to do. Go see the 106th and 107th Congress… there are numbers similar to today,” she told reporters on Wednesday. “I don’t remember anyone … ever saying, ‘Oh, how thin you are.’ They had the hammer, they had the majority. “

While Pelosi is widely expected to receive the votes she needs to become president, the formal vote from the room in January will be a first indication of how strong her hold on the caucus is with such a narrow majority.

Grassroots members are also aware of how a narrower majority could impact Biden’s ability to push legislative priorities through the House. It might be harder to find consensus for a coronavirus package, an infrastructure bill, and even spending bills to pass with only a handful of votes to spare. Even with a larger majority in 2019, Democrats struggled to find a budget they could agree on.

And, while the Senate could remain under GOP control if Georgia Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler both held their seats in the two January polls, the House had been the place where Democrats could draft bills touting their message on campaign finance reform and gun legislation. fire. – even if the bills were dead when they arrived in the Senate. From now on, each bill will need to be carefully crafted and gain broad support before it is introduced. This includes some votes on the rules of procedure that have been widely adopted by large margins over the past couple of years.

Majority Whip Jim Clyburn said there would be “significant changes” to the way he organizes votes next year, but did not provide details.

“Oh like, you know, when you have 20 votes to lose, it’s a little different when you only have two,” the South Carolina Democrat said. “So you make the adjustments. We’re going to go from invoice to invoice. I mean, it won’t be a standard thing.”

Fishing for moderates and progressives

The slim majority present different opportunities for moderates and progressives in the caucus. Moderates believe a narrow majority will give them the chance to cross the aisle with the blessing of the leaders to come up with a bill that can be passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the president. This model is now being played out in real time as the House Problem Solver Caucus worked for weeks with a bipartisan group of Senators to try to find a way forward for Covid relief.

“In order to help the vice president and the president-elect’s agenda and to help them move their agenda forward, we’re going to have to work with both sides. There is no other option,” the President said. representing Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat from New Jersey.

But progressives also say their role in a narrow majority will be to act as a check and balance on the Biden administration and ensure it implements the kinds of reforms the campaign promised. While Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York told CNN she sees a narrow majority as an opportunity to try to forge a compromise between moderates and progressives, she also made it clear that the growing membership more liberals would not compromise just for the sake of getting any bill.

“This slogan is often used here – that you can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good… often we don’t ask for perfect legislation, we very often try to get bad things out. Far from naive enough to be. to think that Democratic administrations are incapable of doing bad things, “Ocasio-Cortez told reporters on Wednesday. “All of these things … will come on a case-by-case basis as to whether this is a ‘perfect situation being the enemy of good’ or if it is just bad legislation that just happens to be approved. by our party. We are not allowed to say that, but it is reality and it happens. “

Biden will have his hands full even in his first 100 days. The president-elect has made it clear that he wants to see another stimulus bill passed in 2021, but Congress struggled for months to pass an even smaller package. And a bipartisan cadre has been castigated by some members of the progressive caucus who argued it is not doing enough to help Americans weather the pandemic. Ocasio-Cortez, Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and others pushed the bipartisan group to include $ 1,200 stimulus checks, even though this request would push the proposal’s revenue to over $ 1,000 billion. of dollars, which would never pass among Republicans in the Senate. When it comes to infrastructure, progressives have made it clear that they want clean energy to be a major component of any program to rebuild America’s crumbling roads and bridges, but some of these proposals don’t will go nowhere in a Republican-controlled Senate.

“If your question is, ‘is it better to have a bigger majority in the House? ” Absoutely. If you have a small majority, it just means that you have fewer voters than you can lose. It’s that simple, ”Representative David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, told CNN.

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