Rep. Alcee Hastings Dies, Narrowing Democratic House Majority to Just 7

Sarah Silbiger | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
  • Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., died Tuesday at age 84 after a two-year bout with pancreatic cancer.
  • Democrats now hold a narrower margin in the House, with a 218-211 split, while six vacant seats remain.

Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., died Tuesday after a more than two-year bout with pancreatic cancer, NBC News confirmed.

Hastings, who served in the House for nearly three decades, was 84. Throughout his career, he held several key committee assignments and leadership positions, most recently as vice chairman of the rules committee. He had also been Florida's first Black federal trial judge, appointed to the bench in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter.

"As an attorney, civil rights activist and judge, and over his nearly thirty years in Congress, he fought tirelessly to create opportunities to lift up working families, communities of color, children and immigrants," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a statement.

President Joe Biden reacted to Hastings' death on Tuesday afternoon. "Across his long career of public service, Alcee always stood up to fight for equality, and always showed up for the working people he represented," he said in a statement. "Jill and I are saddened to learn of his passing."

Democrats now hold a narrower advantage in the House, 218-211, giving the party a smaller margin of error in passing legislation. Six seats are vacant, four of which were previously held by Democrats and two by Republicans.

Three of the four Democratic House seats were vacated by appointments to positions in President Joe Biden's Cabinet. Deb Haaland, of New Mexico, was appointed secretary of the Department of Interior; Marcia Fudge, of Ohio, was named head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Cedric Richmond, of Louisiana, became senior advisor to the president and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

One of the two vacant GOP seats is no longer up for contest. Julia Letlow of Louisiana was elected in late March but has yet to be sworn in. Julia will replace her late husband, Luke Letlow, who was elected to the seat but died before being sworn in due to Covid-19 complications.

In 1983, when Hastings was a federal judge, he was acquitted in criminal court on a charge of conspiring to solicit a bribe in exchange for leniency in a sentencing.

Alcee Hastings testifying at his impeachment trial in 1989.
Michael Jenkins | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Alcee Hastings testifying at his impeachment trial in 1989.

Nevertheless, the House impeached Hastings in 1988 amid accusations that he perjured himself during that criminal trial. The Senate voted to convict him, removing him from the bench, but did not vote to disqualify him from holding future office.

Hastings appealed the impeachment conviction in 1992. A federal judge overturned the conviction, on the grounds that a 12-member Senate committee, rather than the full Senate, conducted the impeachment trial. This was the first time a Senate conviction was overturned by a federal judge.

The next year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled federal courts do not have the authority to review the procedures of a Senate impeachment trial. Hastings' legislative career, which began with his election in 1992 and continued until his death, was unaffected by the decision.

Copyright CNBC
Contact Us