Our most recent book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections.
House Republicans are working with one of the narrowest margins in U.S. history. Following the election of Democrat Jennifer McClellan to fill a vacant seat in Virginia, they have just a nine-vote edge on Democrats, 222 to 213 (or 2.06 percentage points) – even slimmer than the Democrats’ House majority in the previous Congress, and the tightest margin in nine decades.
Slender House majorities (which in this analysis we’re measuring as of the first business day of each Congress) have become more common in the past few decades. After a long run of comfortably large Democratic House majorities from the late 1950s through the early 1990s, narrow majorities – defined for this analysis as margins of control of fewer than 5 percentage points – have prevailed in a third of the 15 most recent Houses.
In fact, the 2.3 percentage point edge that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s Republicans held at the start of the current Congress is the fifth-smallest in U.S. history, tied with the 107th Congress of 2001-02 and the 83rd Congress of 1953-54. That means McCarthy is under tremendous pressure to keep his caucus – especially the four dozen or so members and allies of the House Freedom Caucus – in line.