“The lack of communication with the minority makes this 100 percent political,” said Rep. Rodney Davis, senior Republican on the property management committee. “To build such a structure in the dark of night to protect only the voices that are.” Speaker Pelosi has to be re-elected, is shameful. “
In a sense, this is the speaker’s most challenging offer to date for Pelosi, as she had to meticulously complete every vote, as there is almost no room for error on the coronavirus due to wafer-thin party margins, rebellious Democrats and the potential for short-term absences.
The magic number Pelosi needs to secure the hammer remained a moving target on Sunday. There are currently 222 Democrats and 211 Republicans in the new Congress with two vacant seats. In addition, three members were absent and at least one Democrat planned to be present, further reducing the total number of votes required.
“This is a moment of great challenge here in America, filled with trials and difficulties, with much pain and suffering and death,” said Hakeem Jeffries, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, in his nomination speech for Pelosi. “Nancy Pelosi is a resilient leader. Brighter days are ahead in the United States.”
The mechanics of the floor tuning looked very different from two years ago when Pelosi hit the speaker’s hammer for the second time. While each member was still standing individually to cast their vote, only a few dozen lawmakers from each party should be on the ground at any one time.
On the Democratic side, lawmakers sat several seats apart, despite many Republicans breaking health guidelines and sitting shoulder to shoulder in the chamber.
The tone of the day was also less solemn than in 2018, as the public health crisis remained on the fore for members of both parties. Several members took advantage of their spotlight moment to present the speaker with personal awards: Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), For example, described Pelosi as “the best speaker in United States history”.
Republicans, meanwhile, backed House minority leader Kevin McCarthy as spokesman, including several members who last turned him down.
But there was far less cheer surrounding the vote two years ago.
80-year-old Pelosi and her allies have been conducting an intense lobby lightning behind the scenes in recent weeks to ensure full support within the caucus, including from some of the speaker’s longtime, outspoken critics. Senior Democrats meticulously managed attendance until the last few hours – they even went to offices several times to confirm lawmakers would be there.
In the vote, the Democrats expected only one absence on their side – the 84-year-old MP Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), Who is fighting against pancreatic cancer. Republicans were expecting two absences – elected officials David Valadao (R-Calif.) And Maria Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.), Who both tested positive for coronavirus in the past few days.
Wisconsin Democratic MP Gwen Moore, who also recently tested positive for coronavirus, was released from quarantine at midnight and was able to travel to Washington to vote. Moore told POLITICO that although she had not received a negative coronavirus test, her doctors had cleared her to attend on Sunday.
But not every Democrat intended to vote for Pelosi, despite strong warnings from high-ranking party members to do so. Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) became the first raid of the day, casting his vote for Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Even though his vote had been widely expected. He was followed by Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Who selected Jeffries as speaker. As with Golden, Lamb wasn’t expected to endorse Pelosi’s offer.
And Michigan MP Elissa Slotkin, one of 15 Democrats who did not support Pelosi as a speaker in 2019, confirmed that she will vote “present” this time too.
“I do not support the spokesman,” said Slotkin before the vote. “I’m going to be voting because no one has shown up to run against them.”
Ten of these 15 Democrats returned to the 117th Congress while three losing elections, one, Rep. Anthony Brindisi of New York, still held in a tight vote for his seat and one, Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, were held. Changed parties in the last year.
Pelosi successfully turned some of these democratic defectors around in the run-up to Sunday’s elections, but the votes of a few, including MP Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), Remained unknown.
For the first time since May, all members had to be in attendance and vote, rather than sticking to proxy voting held at last Congress, when the pandemic hit the country. And the vote is expected to take hours – with lawmakers dressed in the necessary masks and being called in groups into the Chamber of the House to cast their vote in order to limit the number of people who can gather at one time.
Pelosi has made history during her more than three decades at the house, including nearly two decades at the helm of the Democratic caucus. The California Democrat is the only woman to ever wore the speaker’s gavel and the first lawmaker in six decades to recapture the gavel in 2019 after losing it.
Now Pelosi must navigate the final tumultuous days of President Donald Trump’s tenure by one of the House’s thinnest majorities in decades before preparing to usher in a new era under President-elect Joe Biden.
One of the last breaths of Trump’s tenure will be on Wednesday as Republicans in the House and Senate will make one final, doomed attempt to reverse Biden’s victory results when Congress meets to ratify the election results.
The effort has no chance of success, but it will guarantee a long day that may skip into the next after a dozen Republican senators announced plans to team up with dozen of their GOP housemates to challenge Biden’s electoral college victory.
Pelosi’s expected fourth term as spokeswoman comes two years after a group of Democratic rebels tried to block their path to the gavel and only backed away after agreeing to a four-year tenure on the House.
But in many ways, Pelosi has only consolidated more power since then, positioning itself as Trump’s leading opponent during a chaotic 116th Congress, which began under the longest government shutdown in history, eventually led to the president’s impeachment before he was quickly consumed by the coronavirus that has effectively shut the nation down for the past nine months.
Pelosi didn’t have a challenger this time around, but was asked repeatedly if this would actually be her last term in office.
“What I said at the time is, whether it happens or not, I’ll stick to the limits that exist,” Pelosi told reporters in November about the deal she made with Democratic rebels in 2018.
Olivia Beavers contributed to this report.