With President-elect Joe Biden choosing Rep. Deb Haaland as his nominee for interior secretary, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have only a three-seat vote margin for her Democratic majority heading into the 117th Congress in a Biden administration.
This comes after Democrats lost incumbents across the country and failed to unseat a single House Republican in the November elections.
Now Democrats’ problems have been exacerbated, since Biden picked three House Democrats – Reps. Marcia Fudge of Ohio, Cedric Richmond of Louisiana and Haaland of New Mexico – to serve in his administration.
While all three members are from safe Democratic districts, it will take time for them to be replaced. What already was a thin margin may now be down to just a handful of votes.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland – the No. 2 Democrat in the House – said that with the naming of Haaland for the Biden administration, the Democrats’ majority in the House is going to be “tight.”
“It’ll be tight. And while, you know, we’ll have to – and I’m hopeful that we can – move forward on a bipartisan basis. After all, we’re all sitting here for the same reason, not the same ideas, but the same reason, and that’s trying to make the country better, make the lives of our people better,” he said Thursday. “And you would think we could get together and do just that. When I came here, it was a lot more collegiality, a lot more working together. I hope we can get back to that for the country, not for politics.”
When asked if he was worried about having too few Democrats, he said, “Sure I am, yeah. We’ve got to watch our numbers. I still think we need to watch numbers.”
Unity in the House?
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York told reporters that Haaland’s nomination is historic not just as the first Native person in the role but also as someone who “brings a philosophy of both a commitment on climate and justice.”
“I’m over the moon right now. I think the Biden climate appointments, they represent progress, real progress, so I’m really excited, I’m so thrilled,” she said.
When asked if she’s worried about losing a progressive ally in the House, she said she has full faith they’ll get another progressive member.
“You know, the thing that makes this such an encouraging appointment is Congresswoman Haaland has been a really strong party builder and that’s a lot of where her background has been, and so we aren’t just talking about vacating a seat and there being no infrastructure to send another member,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
On Wednesday, Hoyer denied claims on a call with reporters that he personally had discouraged the Biden transition team from choosing Haaland for the secretary nomination, with the Democrats’ slim majority in the House.
“I have not talked to one single person in the administration about Deb Haaland. My presumption is Pelosi has not (either),” he told reporters. “I am a very close and dear friend of Deb Haaland’s. I think she is a wonderful, smart, effective leader. And I think she would be an excellent (pick) if the administration chooses her.”
“The margin was very close. … Any assertion that I have spoken to the administration about any one of the candidates is incorrect. False. Made up,” Hoyer said.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave her blessing for the nomination Wednesday in a statement.
“Congresswoman Deb Haaland is one of the most respected and one of the best Members of Congress I have served with,” the California Democrat said before the announcement. “I am so proud that, as one of the first Native American women to have served in Congress, she serves as Chair of the Natural Resources Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands. Congresswoman Haaland knows the territory, and if she is the President-elect’s choice for Interior Secretary, then he will have made an excellent choice,”