Here’s how McCarthy’s resignation affects House GOP’s slim majority

Here’s how McCarthy’s resignation affects House GOP’s slim majority
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The resignation of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), combined with other expected resignations and the recent expulsion of former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), shines a spotlight on the math problems facing the razor-thin House GOP majority.

In coming months, it is in the realm of possibility that the House GOP majority shrinks so much that Republicans will be able to afford to lose just two votes on any party-line measure, depending on timing of resignations, special elections to fill vacancies and which party wins control of the Santos seat.

Republicans are acutely aware of the pressures of the slim majority. The House GOP conference has been plagued by multiple failed or punted party-line votes on spending bills in recent months — not to mention having its Speaker ousted after eight Republicans joined with Democrats.

The slim majority also heightens the importance of member absences and “present” votes, which change the numbers needed to pass a bill.

Rep. Mike Collins (R-Ga.), known for posting memes on X, joked about McCarthy’s departure possibly leaving Republicans with a two-seat majority. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) highlighted the perils of a slim GOP majority in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter: “Hopefully no one dies.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene on shrinking GOP majority: ‘Hopefully no one dies’

One of the biggest potential party-line votes they may face early next year is on impeachment articles against President Biden, if the House GOP — which is planning to hold a formal vote to authorize the inquiry next week — opts to pursue impeachment articles.

McCarthy’s resignation at the end of the year, which he announced Wednesday, will not immediately change the House GOP’s majority cushion.

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Even with the two new vacancies, Republicans will keep a three-vote cushion on any party-line measure. With McCarthy and Santos gone, it leaves 220 Republicans and 213 Democrats, but the threshold for a majority will dip from 218 members to 217 members.

But a special election to replace Santos is set for Feb. 13 — and the race for the Long Island seat, which Santos flipped when he won in 2022, is highly competitive. Election analysts at the nonpartisan Cook Political Report rated the special election as a “toss-up” immediately following the expulsion vote.

If a Democrat wins the New York special election for Santos’s seat, the House would be left with 219 Republicans and 214 Democrats and one vacancy, meaning Republicans could lose just two votes on any party-line measure.

More on the special election: House GOP’s majority hinges on New York

But some other members are planning to make their exits, which further puts the majority math in flux.

In one welcome development for Republicans, Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) is resigning sometime in February to take over Shea’s Performing Arts Center. He cited his frustration with dysfunction in Congress when he announced his resignation.

Lastly, Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) is set to resign from the House before mid-March to take a job as president of Youngstown State University.

Taking those exits into account, the House GOP could still have just a slim two-vote cushion by mid-March if a Democrat wins the Santos’s seat — with 219 Republicans and 213 Democrats and three vacancies. If a Republican wins the New York election, Republicans will be able to afford to lose three votes on any party-line measure.

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The majority math after that gets more uncertain because it is unclear when special elections to fill the seats for McCarthy, Johnson and Higgins would be held.

Assuming that New York is first to hold a special election to replace Higgins in the solidly Democratic Buffalo-area district, and if a Democrat wins Santos’s seat, the House GOP majority could shrink to just one member.

By state law, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is to call for a special election within 10 days of resignation, and the election is required to take place between 70 and 80 days later, putting the timing of that special election likely some time in April or May.

A Republican would likely fill a special election for McCarthy’s Bakersfield-area district, helping raise the GOP numbers — but the timing of a special election in California depends in part on when McCarthy officially resigns.

If he leaves in January, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has the option of not calling a special election at all — though McCarthy did indicate he plans to resign before the end of the year.

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