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As the Republican Party has been (deservedly) sinking in the polls because of their efforts to shut down the federal government because of, at first, their displeasure with PPACA and, later, a twisted sense of revanchism and pride, there have been glimmers of optimism about the Democratic Party's chances at taking back the House in the 2014 elections. The Cook Political Report recently moved 14 House seats in the Democrats' direction. Recent polling by PPP has shown that Democrats could have good chances in a number of swing districts.

These tend to focus on the Democrats getting to 218, the number needed to have a majority in the House. However, as the title to this diary says, 218 is not enough.

Unlike their counterparts in many parliamentary system in which representatives vote en bloc with their ideologically consistent parties, many Congresspersons--especially Democrats--defect from the party line, often with the leadership's approval. A majority of 218 could not suffer a single defection. Nancy Pelosi is very good at counting and whipping votes, but passing bold legislation with an ideologically diverse caucus that can suffer no defections (without corresponding pick-ups) is a formidable challenge to any speaker. The accomplishments of the Democratically-controlled House in Obama's first term were only able to happen because there was a sizable buffer in the majority. Many of these bills suffered several dozen defections.

27 Democrats voted against Dodd-Frank. 6 of those 27 are still in Congress:

Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Marcy Kaptur (OH-09)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
Peter Visclosky (IN-01)

34 Democrats voted against PPACA. Most of the 34 got wiped out in the Blue Dog massacre of 2010 or have since retired from/lost their seats. However, six of them are still with us:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Dan Lipinski (IL-03)
Stephen Lynch (MA-08)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)

44 Democrats voted against the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), the climate bill.

Most of the 44 got wiped out in the great Blue Dog massacre of 2010, some retired or lost last year, and 1 (Joe Donnelly) moved up to the Senate. But 8 are still in the House:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Jim Costa (CA-20)
Pete DeFazio (OR-04)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Peter Visclosky (IN-01)

The DISCLOSE Act suffered 36 defections.

The opposition came from different directions in the caucus. A few Blue Dogs opposed it because they do the bidding of the moneyed interests. Some members of the Congressional Black Caucus feared that it would have a negative impact on the NAACP. I would guess that Carolyn McCarthy’s NO vote had to do with the NRA carve-out.

15 of the 36 are still in the House. Many of the Blue Dogs lost their seats, and one Blue Dog—Joe Donnelly, again—moved up to the Senate.

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
G. K. Butterfield (NC-01)
Danny Davis (IL-07)
Donna Edwards (MD-04)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Carolyn McCarthy (NY-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Bobby Rush (IL-01)
Bennie Thompson (MS)
Maxine Waters (CA-43)
Mel Watt (NC-12)

Granted, the pressure on representatives would differ in the situation of a weak majority. Pelosi would not allow 28 defections on the party's budget if the Democrats (a) had the majority and (b) needed all of those votes for passage. And the fear of being the single representative to tank a publicly popular bill like a minimum wage increase would create pressure as well. Even still, legislating with a slim majority is a formidable task and will not likely lead to the bold legislation needed to adequately address the continued unemployment crisis, widening inequality, climate change, and the many other challenges we face. To see any good legislation passed, the Democrats will need far more than 218 next year, and they'll need quality candidates getting them past it.

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