EXPLAINER: What does a smaller majority in the House mean?

The East Front of the Capitol is seen in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

The counting isn't over yet, but Democrats in Congress are already asking what went wrong. That's because it's looking like their expected gains in the House aren't happening. And while Democrats are likely to retain control for two more years, their current 232-197 majority could easily shrink.

Here, Dustin Weaver, Congress editor for The Associated Press, answers three quick questions about what this could mean.


Well, what it means is that Speaker Pelosi and her Democratic leadership team are going to have less of a margin of error to pass legislation. Pelosi likes to say that votes are the “currency of the realm," and when you have less of them to spend it can make passing bills harder. You're often likely to lose votes from your own side, especially on difficult issues, and Republicans often vote in lockstep against Democratic bills.


She had been widely expected to easily win another term as speaker in January, but having a smaller majority means she'll have fewer votes to spare. No challengers to her position have emerged, however, and some Democrats are saying they don't expect to see one. After all, Democrats still seem to have won the majority.


It's probably too early to say. The Democrats have a number of theories about what went wrong. Some say they didn't fight hard enough against the Republican message that they want socialism. Others are frustrated that they were told not to knock on doors during the pandemic and instead rely on virtual events. Some say they made a mistake by not passing more virus aid before the election, and others say the party just hasn't come to terms with what makes President Donald Trump so popular among a large swath of voters. So they have to figure out where to go from here.