The U.S. House of Representatives voted 216–209 to reelect Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) as the speaker on Jan. 3 to lead the chamber’s narrowest majority in two decades.
Five Democrats defected. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.), and Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) voted “present.” Two Democrats voted for candidates other than Pelosi. Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.) voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), while Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) voted for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.)
“In a time marked by historically low trust in government, new voices are necessary to moving forward and achieving real progress,” Spanberger said in a statement. “Last Congress, I kept my promise to vote for new leadership upon my swearing-in—and in this Congress, I remain consistent in my commitment to ushering in new leadership. Accordingly, I did not vote for Speaker Pelosi.”
Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) initially didn’t respond when called to vote. Bush, a Black Lives Matter activist who was sworn into Congress earlier the same morning, is a member of the expanding progressive “squad.” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the de facto leader of the squad, also was absent from the floor when it came to her turn to vote. Both later voted for Pelosi.
“After telling their constituents they wouldn’t support Pelosi for Speaker last Congress, 5 House Democrats just went back on their promise and handed Pelosi the gavel for two more years of her failed and radical leadership,” the House Republicans said in a statement apparently aimed at the progressive squad.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who served as the House Minority Leader during the last session, ran against Pelosi. He will again lead the House Republicans as the minority leader. All of the Republicans voted for McCarthy.
Pelosi has led the House Democrats since 2003 and was widely expected to retain her post despite a quiet effort to oust her. Democrats held a 222–211 edge over Republicans ahead of the vote, and the anti-Pelosi effort counted on absences which could give the GOP the edge. No Democrat stepped forward to challenge Pelosi ahead of the vote.
The Democrats saw a dozen incumbents lose during the 2020 general election and didn’t defeat a single Republican representative.
One House race in New York is still being decided, and there’s a vacancy in Louisiana after GOP Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, 41, died after a heart attack following an operation related to contracting COVID-19.
Pelosi, 80, recently suggested anew that these would be her final two years as speaker, referencing a statement she made two years ago in which she said she would step aside after this period.
The speaker’s election came three days before the joint session on Jan. 6, during which Congress would vet the Electoral College votes for the presidential election. Dozens of House Republicans have committed to lodging objections to the Democratic electors from states in which President Donald Trump has disputed the outcome.
During the last session, Congress enacted and Trump signed a $900 billion CCP virus pandemic relief package. Trump pushed to increase individual payments as part of that package to $2,000, while calling for the removal of spending he deemed wasteful, including $10 million for gender programs in Pakistan.
Democrats took up Trump’s call to boost the individual payments. Republicans blocked the effort.
Republican congressional strategist Brian Darling, former senior counsel to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), told The Epoch Times that Pelosi’s win represents a temporary truce in the House Democratic caucus between Democratic socialists such as Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and more moderate liberals.
“Democrats have some temporary unity going into the new Congress,” Darling said, “but not many think the peace between the left flank of the party led by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) will hold for more than a few months.
“Policy will divide the caucus, and it will not be long before the AOC squad is upset that they can’t get the socialist Green New Deal and legislation to federally defund the police implemented,” said Darling, who heads Liberty Government Affairs in the nation’s capital.
Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) President David Williams predicted that Democratic unity will continue in the Democratic socialists’ favor, noting that “this is a clear signal that the progressives want their agenda such as a Green New Deal and Medicare for All front and center during the 117th Congress, which would be disastrous for taxpayers and the country.”
The TPA chief added that “despite all the bickering and complaining about Pelosi’s leadership, the Democrats fell in line and ignored the election, which saw a strong gain by Republicans in the House of Representatives.”
Heritage Action for America Executive Director Jessica Anderson told The Epoch Times that Pelosi resumes the speakership “with the thinnest Democratic majority in decades because … her embrace of radical policies hurt the left in November, as they lost numerous key moderate districts and failed to oust a single sitting Republican. Impeachment, the border wall, and the anti-police crusade were very unpopular, especially in the swing districts.
“That’s why ‘moderate’ Democrats Jared Golden and Conor Lamb voted against her.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.