Rep. Julie Letlow (R-LA) was sworn in to her House seat Wednesday, leaving Democrats with only a two-vote margin to cushion their majority with several other vacancies to fill.
Letlow’s seating gives Democrats a 218-212 majority, which means that only two Democrats can vote against any given bill before it is in danger of failing to pass, if Republicans all vote against it. Ties do not count in the House.
Letlow’s husband Luke Letlow was elected in a special election but died of COVID in September before he could be sworn in.
The razor-thin margin could hold back some far-left bills that aren’t supported by the few moderate Democrats still left in the House.
More elections to come
Upcoming special elections could shift the balance of power yet again; of the three special elections that could be held in the next two months, Democrats are expected to win two of them. This would bring the margin back to the three votes it was when the 117th Congress started in January 2021, with 220 Democrats to 213 Republicans.
In November, another blue district special election will be held in Ohio to replace former Democratic Rep. Marcia Fudge, who was confirmed as Housing and Urban Development secretary.
The final vacant seat is in Florida due to the recent death of Alcee Hastings (D), and no one knows when Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will decide to hold an election to fill that seat.
With such a thin margin, any death, resignation or appointment to his administration by President Joe Biden could shift power in a significant way.
About special elections
While Republicans have seemed to win a majority of these special elections, it was often a slim majority, which wouldn’t change the overall numbers much.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said she wasn’t worried about the impact of the margin on her agenda and that advancing it is “not going to be a problem.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) agreed in March, saying, “Frankly, we’re doing OK as Democrats as you look at this quarter.”