Narrow House GOP Victory Should Point Toward Policy Development Agenda
Alex Brill | AEIdeas
Two years ago, in the aftermath of the 2020 Congressional election, I wrote:
Democrats will retain the majority and the Speaker of the House—second in line to the presidency—will again be Nancy Pelosi. [After] 150,803,558 votes have been counted, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy came within approximately 35,000 votes—0.02 percent—of becoming Speaker of the House . . . Five seats that Republicans lost—NJ-7, IL-14, IA-3, VA-7, and MN-2—were each decided by 5,000–10,000 votes. Had Republicans done a bit better in those races, the majority would have flipped.
Now, it appears that even fewer votes determined the Republican majority for the 118th Congress. Just over 107 million votes have been cast and counted, and the GOP majority in 2023 will likely be 222-213, the same narrow advantage Speaker Pelosi has had. This time around, fewer than 7,000 additional votes in the five narrowest contests (CO-3, CA-13, MI-10, NY-17, and IA-3) would have given Democrats a one-seat majority. Moreover, Democrats needed only to flip fewer than 3,500 votes in these races to hold on to the speakership. To maintain their majority going forward, House Republicans must be cognizant of the margins that delivered this victory.
Fifteen Republicans will represent districts that they won by less than 3 percent and balancing the desires of firebrand conservatives in safe seats with members from narrower-margin districts will be a distinct challenge.
A word of advice: Play a longer game. The House Republican agenda for the 118th Congress should focus more on soliciting and building support for common-sense, free-market-oriented policy ideas reflective of the voters who elected them and less on pushing vulnerable members to take votes on hardline, go-nowhere policy positions. Oversight should be rooted in identifying flawed and inefficient bureaucracy, not in promoting conspiracies.
And finally, as my colleague Philip Wallach has noted, Republican candidates who positioned themselves in a more traditional Republican posture outperformed those candidates more closely associated with former President Trump. This too should remind House Republican leadership of the importance of developing and pursuing an agenda oriented toward tangible, evidence-based economic issues.