Republicans currently have a nine-seat majority (11/7/23), in the U.S House with two vacancies that will be filled later this year. The current narrow margin is quite rare. Since 1913, when the House reached its current complement of 435 seats, the majority party has had a cushion of fewer than nine seats only twice – 1917-19 and 1931-33.

There are more recent examples of majorities that have been pretty narrow. In the 83rd Congress (1953-55) and 107th Congress (2001-03) the GOP had just a 10-seat majority. And in the last Congress, Democrats had a cushion of 11 seats. In the 56 Congresses since 1912, the majority and minority have been separated by 20 seats or fewer, 10 times. [538 newsletter 10/26/23]

Approval of the Congress is down roughly 6.3 points from where it was a year ago and disapproval is up 6.7 points.

  Approve Disapprove
Real Clear Pol. 10/31/23 19.0% 72.5%
Real Clear Pol. 9/26/23 19.7% 73.2%
Real Clear Pol. 8/29/23 24.2% 66.8%
Real Clear Pol. 7/25/23 23.8% 64.5%
Real Clear Pol. 6/27/23 22.8% 68.6%
Real Clear Pol. 5/16/23 27.0% 65.5%
Real Clear Pol. 3/28/23 26.4% 65.2%
Real Clear Pol. 2/14/22 24.4% 65.4%
Real Clear Pol. 12/19/22 27.6% 62.4%
Real Clear Pol. 11/23/22 23.8% 62.8%
Real Clear Pol. 10/13/22 25.3% 65.8%
Real Clear Pol. 8/30/22 20.6% 67.4%
Real Clear Pol. 8/2/22 19.6% 71.0%
Real Clear Pol. 6/15/22 21.2% 69.0%
Real Clear Pol. 5/17/22 22.4% 68.0%
Real Clear Pol. 4/16/22 22.2% 67.5%
Real Clear Pol. 3/15/22 21.8% 67.8%
Real Clear Pol. 2/18/22 20.8% 68.3%
Real Clear Pol. 1/17/22 22.4% 66.4%

The House of Representatives

Having served as speaker for 269 days Kevin McCarthy, the Speaker who was the first person selected after a number of votes, was ousted by a group of rebels in his caucus. He had the third shortest tenure as Speaker in history.

Jim Jordan was the first to seek the nomination to replace him but failed to get the required number of votes in three elections.

He was followed by Steve Scalise, who could not draw enough support and then Tom Emmer, the GOP Whip, who ended his campaign when it became clear that Trump was against him.

Then Mike Johnson of Louisiana, who came to the House in 2017, entered the fray and was elected on his first try, receiving every Republican vote winning 220 to 209. He is the least experienced Representative to obtain the gavel in 140 years. Since the Civil War, Speakers have spent an average of 18 years in the chamber before ascending to the top of the ladder.

There have been a number of Speaker contests over the years requiring numerous ballots, but the record was set at the outset of the 34th Congress which was in 1856. There were 234 members of the House. 133 ballots were required before a speaker was elected. The winner was Nathaniel Prentice Banks.

Mike Johnson

56th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Took office on October 25, 2023
2nd in line for President of the United States

“In his first big test as House speaker: coming up with a credible plan to avert a government shutdown, which passed the chamber on a bipartisan vote on Tuesday – Mike Johnson has offered a sign that he might be a more skillful and pragmatic leader then many thought possible.” [Tumulty, WP, 11/14/23]

What do we know about Johnson? He is 51 years old and married. The following are quotes from a well-regarded, Republican member of the House. “Mike is one of those people who gets along with everybody and is well-respected.” And further, when asked why Johnson won said “probably because he has the fewest enemies of anybody in the Republican Party.”

The items below are those that have been found by Washington Watch in various print news sources.

Johnson is the most far right speaker in modern times. He is a totally publicly committed supporter of former president Donald Trump. But it turns out his attachment to Trump is fairly recent.

In a lengthy post on Facebook on August 7, 2015, before he was elected to Congress, Johnson wrote, “The thing about Donald Trump is that he lacks the character and the moral center we desperately need again in the White House.”

The rest of the story is obvious. Like every other Republican lawmaker still in the party, Johnson changed his tune after Trump won in 2016. But he became a class A suck-up and took on a major role in propagating Trump’s lies.

Mike Johnson voted to overturn the 2020 Presidential election and was called “the mastermind of the January 6 plot.”

As chair of the Republican Study Committee, he pushed for a national abortion ban, even for victims of rape, and has cosponsored three federal abortion bans. He has advocated for extending constitutional protections to human life at conception.

As a Louisiana state legislator, he proposed a bill called the Louisiana Marriage and Conscience Act that would have prevented “adverse treatment by the State of any person or entity on the basis of the views they may hold with regard to marriage”. He supports the right of states to make gay-sex illegal. Johnson argued that allowing same-sex marriage could be the downfall of the democratic system and introduced federal legislation modeled after Florida’s so-called ‘don’t say gay” bill.

Johnson endorsed trying to expunge Trump’s first impeachment.

He worked as a lawyer for an organization that opposes the separation of Church and State and when he ran for Congress in 2016, Johnson placed his faith at the center of his campaign saying, “I am a Christian, a husband, a father, a lifelong conservative, constitutional law attorney and a small business owner in that order.”

He opposes any form of gun control.

As chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the group touted budget plans that called for deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare and to change Medicare into a system that gives people financial assistance to buy insurance. He’s also in favor of raising the social security retirement age.

When measured against the last seven speakers using the DW-nominate scores, Johnson is the most conservative followed by Paul Ryan, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, Denis Hastert, Newt Gingrich, and Joseph Martin, Jr.

Washington Watch uses the report by David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report for its report on elections in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Solid Republican 187 Solid Democrat 170
Likely GOP 15 Likely Dem 19
Lean GOP 6 Lean Dem 14
GOP Tossup 15 Dem Tossup 9
Total 223 Total 212

The Senate

  • Republicans – 49
  • Democrats – 48
  • Independents – 3

The 2024 Senate Election

The Democrats’ control of the U.S. Senate will come to an end effective January 3, 2025. Senator Manchin of West Virginia has announced that he is not running for re-election. The current Republican Governor Jim Justice is running for the office and while he has a primary, odds are that he will be the next senator. It is not clear what Manchin, age 76, will do in the next stage of his life. He has said that running for President isn’t beyond the pale.

Democrats Republicans Independents
Seats not up in 2024 28 38 0
Seats up in 2024 23 11  
Safe in 2024 14 9
  CA-Open IN-Open
Murphy Hawley
DE-Open Wicker
Hirono Cramer
Warren Fischer
MD-Open Ricketts
King (I) Blackburn
Klobuchar Romney
Heinrich Barrasso
Gillibrand Scott
Sanders (I)
Likely 1 2
Menendez Cruz
Lean 5
Toss Up 3
Sinema (I)
OH – D
WV – D

At a Senate hearing on 11/14/2023, a discussion devolved into an angry confrontation between Senator Mullin of Oklahoma and Sean O’Brien, the president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Mullin suggested to O’Brien “stand your butt up”. It was obvious that Mullin was prepared to go to fisticuffs.

They were told to sit down and attend to the business of the hearing by the committee chair Bernie Sanders.

Mullin landed in the Senate on January 3rd, 2023, having represented Oklahoma in the U.S. House for 10 years. He was elected to fill the final four years of the term of Senator Jim Inhofe who resigned early.

Prior to his time in the U.S. government, Mullin included in his resume a 5-0 record as a Mixed Martial Arts fighter.