Democratic women were less glowing about election night. Politico reported the leaked details of an internal caucus call on Nov. 5 in which moderate Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia blasted her more liberal colleagues for dragging the party down by pushing for progressive ideas. “No one should say ‘defund the police’ ever again,” she reportedly said. “Nobody should be talking about socialism.” Otherwise, she warned, Democrats would get “torn apart” in the next midterm election.
The more progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York returned fire publicly, tweeting that she had researched the losses of Democratic incumbents and blamed “awful execution” of digital campaigns. She even suggested that the decision to stop knocking on voters’ doors during the pandemic was a mistake.
Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., came to the defense of his fellow moderates in an interview with The New York Times: “The fact is that in general elections in these districts—particularly in the ones where President Trump himself campaigns over and over and over again, and attacks members within their own Republican-leaning districts, like me and ... Representative Spanberger—it’s the message that matters. It’s not a question of door knocking, or Facebook. It matters what policies you stand for, and which ones you don’t.”
These divisions between moderate and progressive Democrats could become more visible without a common opponent in the White House against which to unite.
Meanwhile, Republicans have already begun to strategize for how they will act as a now emboldened minority.
“We will press [Democrats] hard on the floor over the next two years to set up repeated situations where their vulnerable members have to cast tough votes,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., told Politico.
Republicans have attempted to use discharge petitions—which can circumvent leadership to bring a bill to a floor vote if 218 lawmakers sign on in agreement—over the last two years. They never successfully got a discharge petition on the floor, but with their increased numbers, 218 will be an easier threshold to reach. The GOP has used another procedural tactic, “motions to recommit,” with more success. Motions to recommit allow the minority to introduce amendments to a bill on the floor. Politico noted that Republicans got at least eight motions to recommit across the finish line in the 116th Congress, some on hot-button issues like immigration and border security, while Democrats didn’t win a single motion to recommit petition while in the minority from 2011 to 2017.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told The Washington Post he is confident the GOP will retake the majority in the 2022 midterms. He went as far as to describe this year’s election results as a win, even though Republicans face two more years in the minority.
“We have never been stronger in the sense of what the future holds for us,” McCarthy said. “We won this by adding more people to the party. And we won this in an atmosphere where we were the one group that everyone guaranteed we would lose.”
The 117th House of Representatives class will include several historic, demographic firsts.
For the first time, Korean American women will be lawmakers in Congress. Democrat Marilyn Strickland won an open seat in Washington state. Republican Michelle Steel won a race in California’s 48th Congressional District, defeating freshman Democrat Rep. Harley Rouda.
Yvette Herrell, a member of the Cherokee Nation, beat a Democratic incumbent in a New Mexico district and will be the first Republican Native American woman in Congress. Democrat Cori Bush, a pastor and registered nurse, will become the first black congresswoman from Missouri.
Republican Stephanie Bice, who flipped Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn’s district in Oklahoma, will be the first Iranian American woman in Congress. Ritchie Torres and Mondaire Jones, both Democrats from New York, will be the first gay black members of Congress.
From North Carolina’s 11th District, Madison Cawthorn will become the youngest current member of Congress at age 25.