House Democrats held their leadership elections on Wednesday and nominated Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as their speaker to lead them in the next Congress, but she is expected to hold a smaller majority and a more ideologically split party.
In their first virtual leadership elections, Democrats selected Pelosi as their leader. They also chose House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) to retain his position, Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) as majority whip, and Rep. Hakeem Jefferies (D-N.Y.) as leader of the Democrat caucus.
Pelosi called for unity in her party. “Let us all be advocates for unity in the Democratic party, where our values are opportunity and community,” she wrote.
Among the Democrats who planned to deliver speeches backing Pelosi is a representative backed by socialist groups like The Working Families Party, Congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), who won civil rights leader’s Rep. John Lewis district.
The full House will formally elect the new speaker when the new Congress convenes in early January before the Presidential inauguration.
Ten incumbent House Democrats were defeated, dashing expectations of adding seats and damaging party morale.
The House seat losses sparked finger-pointing within the Democrat Party, with moderates saying the party failed to counter the image of their party as socialist. They claimed that they were hurt by far-left initiatives like defunding the police.
“We have a majority in the House, albeit smaller, But nonetheless, a majority, 132, gavels, chairs of committees subcommittees and the rest. The beautiful diversity of our caucus and we see it as a tremendous opportunity as we go forward,” Pelosi said about her House losses.
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Tuesday that the GOP will have more influence over what bills are passed in the House. “In this next Congress we might not be able to schedule the floor, but we are going to run the floor,” McCarthy said.
Pelosi, 80, will need 218 votes by the full House of Representatives in January to be sworn in again as speaker.
Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) who ran the House Democrat’s campaign arm, said she would not run for reelection, and instead two Democrats, Reps. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) are in line for the position that will be decided later this month.
Pelosi will need to manage various ideological factions inside her caucus who already have different priorities for next year, with progressives led by self-described Democrat socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) hoping to implement broad policies like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and defunding police departments.
John Lawrence, former chief of staff to then-Rep. Pelosi from 2005–2013 spoke with C-Span about the House leadership elections and the Democrats’ agenda for the next Congress. “The Democrats are going to have to work very hard on their messaging because there is an ideological diversity within the party,” he said.