Republicans had mounted a sustained PR campaign against the committee’s review, calling it an improper use of congressional resources to resolve a state election issue after the race had already been certified and Miller-Meeks was sworn in. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy traveled to Iowa this week to show his support for Miller-Meeks.
Hart’s decision to contest the election kicked up a political firestorm within the Democratic caucus, with a group of vulnerable moderates concerned about the political optics of the House voting to overturn the results of an election just months after hammering then-President Donald Trump and Republicans for attempting to do the same in his failed reelection bid.
The contest was filed last year, but Democrats turned up the heat on Hart last week when a crop of swing-seat members began vocally opposing her challenge. That group included Reps. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), Susan Wild (D-Pa.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.)
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defended the Administration Committee’s plan to probe the matter, but the mounting dissension within her own caucus was making a positive outcome for Hart unlikely, regardless of what an investigation revealed.
As the arbiter of its own elections, the House has the ability to investigate close losses. In past contested election cases, the committee has appointed a task force that has the power to send staff into the district, impound ballots and conduct a recount.
But the House ultimately may have had to vote on the rightful winner of the seat. With a razor-thin majority — and the GOP united in opposition — Democrats would have struggled to find the votes to seat Hart.
Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Sean Maloney praised Hart in a statement shortly after her announcement: “I respect her decision and applaud her efforts to ensure that every legal vote was counted in this election. I know her service and commitment to Iowans won’t end here.”
And Admin Committee Chairwoman Zoe Lofgren confirmed in a statement that her committee will suggest that the House dismiss Hart’s complaint because there is no longer a contestant.
Republicans, meanwhile, wasted no time in taking a victory lap.
“We are glad Rita Hart finally came to her senses and admitted the truth: The people of Iowa chose Dr. Mariannette Miller-Meeks to represent them in Congress,” said Mike Berg, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “We won’t let voters forget that Democrats will do whatever they can to subvert democracy if given the opportunity.”
The district, located in the southeast corner of Iowa, is a biennial swing seat. It was held by Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack from 2006 until his retirement last year. Last year’s race marked the fourth time Miller-Meeks, a former state senator and physician, ran for the seat.