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Shrinking Majority Puts House Speaker Mike Johnson on Precarious Ground



House Speaker Mike Johnson
House Speaker Mike Johnson (Photo via Imgur)

House Speaker Mike Johnson finds himself at the helm of one of the smallest House majorities in history, further diminished by recent developments. With Congress gearing up for crucial battles over government funding, immigration, and impeachment, the razor-thin majority of 219 Republican seats versus 213 Democratic seats poses a formidable challenge for Johnson.

The departure of Ohio GOP Rep. Bill Johnson, the resignation of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy, and the expulsion of former GOP Rep. George Santos have left three vacancies in the House. Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins of New York is also set to step down on February 2, creating additional uncertainty.

The upcoming special election on February 13 to fill Santos’s seat is anticipated to be competitive, potentially offering a pickup opportunity for Democrats. The absence of key members, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and the recent hospitalization of Republican Rep. Hal Rogers, adds an element of unpredictability to the already tight vote margin.

With the slim majority leaving little room for error, Johnson must navigate competing demands within his party carefully. The influence of hardline conservatives, demonstrated in previous events such as the attempt to oust McCarthy, remains a significant factor. Recent procedural moves, like putting bills directly on the floor under the suspension of rules, highlight the challenges Johnson faces in maintaining party unity.

The ongoing dynamic of protest votes from the right flank may persist and even intensify, forcing Johnson to seek two-thirds majority support, thereby relying on significant Democratic backing. This strategy, however, risks further alienating Johnson and the right wing of his conference.

The recent passage of a short-term funding extension, which narrowly avoided a shutdown, showcased the deep divide within House Republicans. The delicate balance between the demands of conservatives and moderates from battleground districts becomes increasingly crucial as the 2024 election year approaches.

With 17 Republicans now in House districts won by President Joe Biden in 2020, the fate of these politically vulnerable members will play a pivotal role in determining whether the GOP can retain its majority amidst the ever-shrinking margin.