With Mike Pence’s brother Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN) announcing today that he plans to retire when his term is up, it’s time to check in on that slim Republican House majority that seems to grow thinner by the week.
So far 17 Republicans have announced they don’t plan to seek reelection — that’s not including expelled-Rep. George Santos (R-NY) nor former-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who resigned from Congress at the end of December. Of the 17, only one has indicated he’ll leave the Capitol before the end of his term: Rep. Bill Johnson’s (R-OH) last day in Congress will be January 21 — he’ll then take a gig as the new head of Youngstown State University. That’s almost a month before the special election to replace Santos is held and two months before the California special election to replace McCarthy.
While McCarthy’s seat is expected to be filled by a Republican as his former district is solidly red, it is less certain whether a Republican or a Democrat will be elected to replace Santos, whose district is still considered a toss up after last year’s court-drawn redistricting maps helped Republicans flip four seats typically held by Democrats in the state, including Santos’ district. (It won’t matter for this special election on February 13, but the New York State Court of Appeals ordered an independent commission to restart the mapping process, giving New York Democrats another chance to redraw district lines.)
The Ohio Republican’s early departure will help bring House Republicans’ majority down to 219 during a crucial legislative window, meaning the majority party can only lose two votes in order for legislation to pass.
House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) may see the odds are not necessarily in his favor.
Over the weekend Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced they’d come to an agreement on overall budget totals for the next two must-pass spending bills, giving House and Senate appropriators the go ahead to draft legislation ahead of the January 19 and February 2 shutdown deadlines. While the two have agreed to the bipartisan framework, the spending total is higher than the House Freedom Caucus has been pushing for and Johnson has made it known that his far-right flank has plenty of room to muck up the process. He said this week that the deal with Schumer gives Republicans “a path” to “fight for the important policy riders” they attached to bills in the appropriations process repeatedly last year.
Those versions of the bills will be dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate, meaning if Johnson wants to actually avoid a shutdown he may have to work with Democrats once again to pass bills with the agreed upon totals — risking enraging those members who have already demonstrated they’re not above throwing out a speaker.
The perilous annals of a barely-there majority continue.
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