1995: Democrats Approach End of Majority

Posted April 8, 2005 at 5:51pm

In 1995, the GOP continued to make inroads into the majority as a string of Democrats announced their retirement and others became party-switchers. And yet, for a time, the ever-shrinking Democratic Party thought it had the chance to win back the majority.

Roll Call featured the headline, “Can the Democrats Win It Back in ’96?” — the answer, which the party quickly realized as early as March, was a resounding “no.”

That month delivered surprises for Democrats including then-Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell’s (Colo.) decision to switch to the Republican Party, as well as retirement announcements from a pair of veteran Senators: Jim Exon (D-Neb.) and Howell Heflin (D-Ala.).

Following Campbell’s party-switching lead were then-Reps. Nathan Deal (Ga.) and Billy Tauzin (La.). Tauzin had established a 15-year career as a House Democrat before crossing the aisle.

And the Democratic retirements continued to mount with announcements from then-Sens. Bill Bradley (N.J.), Claiborne Pell (R.I.) and David Pryor (Ark.), and then-Reps. Cardiss Collins (Ill.), Norman Mineta (Calif.), Pete Peterson (Fla.) and Pat Schroeder (Colo.), who was leaving after 12 terms. A further blow came when then-Rep. Mel Reynolds (Ill.) announced his resignation.

With Members resigning and jumping parties, Roll Call reported in September that the Democrats dropped “below 200 House seats for the first time since the 80th Congress ended in 1949.”