House swears in New York Democrat, thinning GOP majority

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Rep. Tim Kennedy (D-N.Y.) was sworn in on the House floor Monday, replacing the now-retired Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) and leaving Republicans with just a one-vote margin for any partisan vote.

Kennedy, previously a state senator, defeated GOP candidate Gary Dickson in a special election for New York’s 26th Congressional District last week.

“I stand before you humbled by the opportunity God has given us to be together in this moment,” he said on the floor after being sworn in. “This awesome and magnificent responsibility that’s been granted to me by the people of Western New York.”

The total number of lawmakers in the House now stands at 430 — 217 Republicans and 213 Democrats — narrowing the GOP conference’s razor-thin majority. The margin has thinned in recent months as multiple Republican members have elected to resign from office early.

The next vacancy to be filled is that of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). His Central Valley district will hold a special election on May 21.

Higgins resigned from Congress in February after nearly two decades in the House, citing growing dysfunction and the “slow and frustrating” pace of progress in D.C., and now serves as president and CEO of Shea’s Performing Arts Center in Buffalo. The longtime lawmaker was among a number of House members who announced they wouldn’t seek reelection amid frustration with chaos on Capitol Hill. 

The New York district runs along the Niagara River, including the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls. A 2022 mass shooting in Buffalo prompted Kennedy to champion gun safety legislation in the New York State Senate.

“I believe the character traits that define us in the Buffalo Niagara region are the same ideals held by all Americans,” Kennedy said on the floor. “I believe the hope we hold as a western New York community in achieving our greatest potential is shared equally by all communities across our country.” 

Kennedy will finish Higgins term through January and will also be on the ballot for a full term this November.

“I look forward to working with you to change our country for the better,” he continued. “I’m hopeful that we in this chamber can demonstrate leadership on a world stage that our fellow Americans can be proud of.”

Julia Mueller contributed.

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