An appeals court in New York ordered an independent redistricting commission to redraw the state’s congressional districts, potentially throwing half a dozen Republican freshmen into hostile territory for the 2024 election and flipping the GOP majority to a Democrat lead. But that’s next year’s problem; a more imminent threat looms over the conservative agenda. While there are more Democrats choosing not to run for re-election, more Republicans are calling it quits before the end of this term, shrinking an already razor-thin advantage.
Will the GOP majority in the US House of Representatives survive Election Day? Will it even last the year? No matter how the vote goes next November, the 118th Congress still has about a year to hammer out legislation – so how well will the Republicans and their new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson (R-LA), use it?
GOP Majority – Is the End Nigh?
The New York Supreme Court ruled last year that Democrats had “unconstitutionally gerrymandered districts,” leading to redrawn maps that helped Republicans turn four seats last November. But then that same court ruled the maps were only supposed to be temporary. An appeals court upheld that decision in a 4-3 vote Tuesday, December 12, and now another independent commission has until February 28 to submit new maps to the Democrat-controlled state legislature for approval.
The New York Congressional Delegation has 15 Democrats and 11 Republicans right now, and six of those Republicans are freshmen who may well face voters who are far less friendly if Democrats have their way with the coming district maps. Should all six of them fail their re-election bids in 2024, the GOP’s slim majority could see Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) take the gavel in 2025.
There are currently 221 Republicans to 213 Democrats. This gives the GOP an eight-vote lead, but that margin is about to shrink. According to the US House Casualty List, 24 Democrats and 14 Republicans aren’t running for re-election. Of those, four will be out before the November contests, leaving vacancies and potentially throwing off the balance of power in the House until special elections can fill the seats.
Former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, who recently announced he would be leaving Congress at the end of this year, won California’s 20th congressional district in the 2022 midterm election, solidly beating Democrat Marisa Wood 67.2% to 32.8%. The Los Angeles Times called it “one of the most conservative congressional districts in a state dominated by Democrats,” and pointed out that voters here chose Donald Trump over Joe Biden in 2020 almost two to one.
Be that as it may, the district has historically been a Democratic Party stronghold. In fact, voters overwhelmingly chose Democrats in every congressional election in this district since 1992 until picking McCarthy in 2022 – even while backing Trump for the presidency in 2020. So recent history aside, it’s no safe bet for the Republicans hoping to take the former speaker’s seat.
Recently expelled Representative George Santos of New York’s third congressional district was the first Republican to win that seat since 2010, and he only beat Democrat Robert Zimmerman in 2022 by 7.5% of the vote. Both of these could easily return to Democratic control, if history is any guide – and both will remain empty for the first part of the coming year, at least.
Republican Bill Johnson of Ohio and Democrat Brian Higgins of New York also plan to leave office in the first quarter of next year. Of the four special elections then required to fill these posts, only the one for George Santos’ seat has even been announced yet. It will take place February 13 and will almost certainly be the earliest. So not only could McCarthy and Santos easily be replaced by Democrats, but just with these four vacancies, the GOP majority shrinks from eight votes to six with months to go before the November general election and over a year until January 2025’s swearing in of the 119th Congress.
Can Speaker Mike Johnson navigate that narrow gap, or will he shine as the master dealmaker between both parties – or will he fail to do either, grinding the GOP legislative agenda to a halt? If Republicans hope to accomplish much more with their majority in the House, they had best act fast. Without the red wave in 2024 conservatives hoped for but didn’t get in 2022, New York’s coming district maps and the congressional quitters may mean time is running out.