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The House Republicans’ margin of error just became even smaller

House Republicans leaders have spent recent months struggling mightily to complete basic tasks. Their legislative arithmetic just got worse.


Ahead of the recent congressional special election in New York’s 3rd congressional district, Republicans were cautiously optimistic about holding onto disgraced former Rep. George Santos’ seat. In a suburban district that’s been moving in the GOP’s direction, the party nationalized the contest, trying to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s weak approval ratings, public concerns about conditions at the U.S./Mexico border, and crime.

It didn’t work. Former Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi won with relative ease, prevailing over his Republican opponent by about eight points. Last night, as NBC News reported, the New Yorker became Congress’ newest member.

After a convincing special election victory, New York Democrat Tom Suozzi was sworn into the House on Wednesday night to fill the vacancy left by last year’s historic expulsion of Republican George Santos.

For GOP leaders, Suozzi’s swearing in no doubt stings, in part because he flipped a competitive seat from red to blue.

But the more significant problem for Republican leaders is the newly revised legislative arithmetic in the chamber. The House now has 219 Republicans, 213 Democrats, and three vacancies. That means that on any given floor vote, it would take 217 members to pass the legislation.

Or put another way, on measures lacking Democratic support, GOP leaders can only afford to lose two of their own members.

House Speaker Mike Johnson and his leadership team have spent recent months struggling mightily to complete basic legislative tasks. A recent Punchbowl News report concluded, “This is the most chaotic, inefficient and ineffective majority we’ve seen in decades covering Congress.”

That was two weeks ago. Now, Republican leaders’ challenges are slightly worse.

The good news for the tiny House GOP majority is that there are some special elections on the horizon that will help bolster the party’s numbers. As a New York Times report summarized, “There will be some modest relief for Republicans in the late spring and early summer, when they are likely to fill two safe seats that were vacated by Representative Bill Johnson, Republican of Ohio, who left Congress to become the president of Youngstown State University; and former Representative Kevin McCarthy, who resigned from his California seat at the end of last year after being ousted from the speakership.”

The bad news for the party is that the next special election isn’t until June 11 in Ohio, which means GOP officials will be stuck with the status quo for a few more months.

The worst news for Republicans is that their majority is so small that it occasionally doesn’t exist at all. With some members occasionally having an illness or a family emergency, there are days in which there are actually more Democrats on the House floor than Republicans — which happened about a month ago.

Around the same time, the New York Times reported that if this were to start happening with greater frequency, Democrats “would not hesitate to capitalize on the situation.”

“We’d elect a speaker,” Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said.