Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was narrowly reelected Sunday as Speaker of the House, giving her the reins of Democrats’ slender House majority.
The California Democrat, who has led her party in the House since 2003 and is the only woman to be speaker, had been widely expected to retain her post. Pelosi received 216 votes to 209 for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who again will be the chamber’s minority leader. After serving as speaker from 2006-2011, Pelosi regained the helm in 2018.
Pelosi’s success over the next two years depends heavily on who wins the Senate runoffs in Georgia. If Democrats take both seats, they will control the White House and both chambers of Congress. If not, Pelosi will have to work hand in hand with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for the next two years. Both Pelosi and McConnell have had their homes vandalized over the weekend after McConnell blocked legislation that would have sent $2,000 direct payments to Americans. As of Wednesday morning, Democrat Raphael Warnock is expected to win the runoff over Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
To gain her victory, Pelosi had to overcome some Democratic grumbling about her longevity, a slim 222-211 edge over Republicans after November’s elections and a handful of absences because of the coronavirus. There were two vacancies in the 435-member House, and whatever happens Democrats will have the smallest House majority in two decades. Democrats gave Pelosi a standing ovation as the final tally was announced, while the Republican side of the chamber was nearly empty.
Congress convened Sunday, just two days after lawmakers ended their contentious previous session and with Covid-19 guidelines requiring testing and face coverings for House members. The vote lasted just over two-and-a-half hours, an unusually long time, as lawmakers voted in groups of around 72 each. Three members who were still in quarantine after being exposed to Covid-19 were called in to vote at a special area of the House on Sunday. Two Democrats who recently tested positive for Covid-19, Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Mich.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wisc.), voted from the House floor after declaring their quarantine was over after consulting with their doctor, prompting criticism from Republican lawmakers (Forbes).
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), formally nominated Pelosi for the job, calling her “a notorious negotiator and a legendary legislator for such a time as this.” Jeffries, a member of House leadership who’s expected to contend for the speakership whenever Pelosi steps aside, said that as Pelosi prepares to work with Joe Biden, “Brighter days are ahead in the United States of America. This is the day of great renewal in the House of Representatives.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., a progressive leader, backed Pelosi and told reporters that Democratic unity was important “at a time when the Republican Party is attempting an electoral coup.” She referred to the support many congressional Republicans are giving outgoing President Donald Trump’s baseless effort to reverse the election results. Ocasio-Cortez said she and other progressives “have been in conversations and negotiations” with Pelosi, but did not describe what they accomplished (AP).
POLITICS EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: JACQUELYN MARTIN/AP