Will Democrats Keep Their Majority in the House of Representatives?

10/10/19

The odds are long that Republicans gain the majority in the House of Representatives in 13 months. History is against them. The last time a party took control of the lower chamber only to lose the majority in the next election was in the Eisenhower administration. The GOP rode into the majority with Ike in 1952 and rode out again following the midterm election of 1954.

Retirements are also against them, with 14 Republican House members retiring. They give a lot of reasons in their announcements but really, it’s just not as fun in the minority, some will soon lose leadership positions due to Republican-only term limits, they don’t have fire in their belly for a tough campaign, and one’s pled guilty to insider trading. Six Texas Republicans, at last count, are stepping down.

Nevertheless, the Republicans could pick up a handful of seats and chip away at the Democratic majority.

There are 31 Democrats in districts President Trump won in 2016. Six of those Trump won by double digits. And then there are the 14 freshmen in Trump districts. Each flipped a Republican-held seat in 2018.

Collectively, the 14 have a lot of power. Speaker Pelosi can’t pass legislation without them and she may think twice about calling votes on bills that could put them in a bind. The more liberal and more vocal freshmen women known as “the squad” get much of the ink. But four members can’t stop legislation.

Two weeks ago, the most important factor for the Republicans picking up seats was the degree to which Speaker Pelosi might make the Trump district Democrats take some votes that are more difficult if you represent a red or purple district: a big labor bill and guns for example. But now, the Trump district Democrats will have to take what could be the most difficult vote in a red or purple district – impeachment.

Here are four representatives to keep an eye on as they stake out positions on controversial issues including impeachment: Kendra Horn in Oklahoma, Jared Golden in Maine, Max Rose in New York, and former CHRO Angie Craig just outside the Twin Cities.

It’s interesting to see where they toe the middle of the road and where they don’t. For instance, Craig, Golden, and Rose are cosponsors of the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2019 (PRO Act; H.R. 2474). Horn is not. The PRO Act is a laundry list of union favorites including card check, joint employer, the persuader rule, and eliminating right to work and secondary boycott provisions.? One might think vulnerable members in swing districts would stay neutral on such a partisan bill. We are expecting a vote on the Pro Act later in October.

The members to watch are choosing their words carefully on impeachment. Angie Craig has called for “open impeachment proceedings” although she has not supported the various impeachment resolutions.

Kendra Horn said that the investigation against President Trump could be done without an impeachment inquiry. Similarly, Jared Golden supports an investigation but has not taken a position on impeachment.

Max Rose said he opposed a rush to judgement but on October 2 announced he fully supports an “impeachment inquiry.”

I wouldn’t dare to predict how impeachment will influence voters next year. Trump’s job approval is fixed but public opinion is drifting in favor of impeachment according to the Cook Political Report. Principle and fact should guide an impeachment vote. But representatives see the numbers too.

Republicans’ hopes of gaining seats in the House depend greatly on the 31 Democrats in Trump districts, particularly the 14 freshmen. Do those Democrats have a tough time balancing in the middle of the road? Or can they be brokers for bipartisanship? With the impeachment effort gaining steam, it may not matter.