With only a six-vote majority to work with, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is feeling the heat from reapportionment and retirements that are eroding her Democratic caucus.
Count ’em up:
The census gives Texas two extra seats and one each to Montana, Colorado, North Carolina, Oregon and Florida.
Texas’ two extra seats should go to Republicans, as will the additional seats in Florida, North Carolina and Montana.
But this five-seat gain will likely be whittled down to only three seats because Oregon and Colorado’s new seats will probably go Democrat.
And then there are the five Democratic retirements — all by centrists in highly competitive districts.
Here are the departing Democrats:
• Rep. Cheri Bustos’ Illinois district went for Trump in both 2016 and 2020, making it a likely GOP pickup.
• Rep. Filemon Vela was feeling safe in his South Texas district until he saw how Hispanics fled the Democratic Party and voted Republican in droves in November. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, he decided to retire.
• Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick’s decision to retire from her Arizona seat creates a real battle between the parties. But with reapportionment (by an independent commission) looming, there is no telling what her district will look like.
• Rep. Charlie Crist, the former Republican governor of Florida turned Democrat, is leaving to run for higher office. With a Republican governor and GOP control of both houses of the Legislature, his district may well flip to the GOP.
• Similarly, Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio is leaving behind a swing district that Joe Biden carried by only 51 percent in November. Again, the trifecta of Republican governor and GOP control of both houses of the Legislature makes it likely that the new map will give the Republicans an edge in Ryan’s old district.
Count on five Republican gains in these reapportioned districts. However, subtract two GOP retirements in New York, where the Democrats control the redistricting.
So chalk up a net Republican gain of three seats from the Census and three more from retirements.
That’s six seats — exactly the six seats we need for control.
And the Democratic retirements are likely to keep on coming. Democratic Reps. Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy of Florida, Cindy Axne of Iowa and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania are likely to retire or to seek higher office.
Republicans control the redistricting process in 20 states that elect 188 members of Congress, while the Democrats only have control in seven states that elect 72 members. In 16 states, redistricting is controlled by an independent commission or by a divided government.
Particularly when Democratic incumbents see what the Republican legislatures are going to do to their districts, they might choose a dignified retirement.
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