Democrats nominate Pelosi to keep Speakership
House Democrats on Wednesday nominated Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to remain atop the party for another two years, brushing aside some internal grousing about a disappointing election performance in a vote demonstrating an overwhelming confidence in their long-time leader.
The nomination was secured by voice vote during a process conducted remotely as a health precaution amid a surge in coronavirus cases.
That marks a stark contrast to the secret election of two years ago, when 32 Democrats had opposed Pelosi amid a rebellion from a group of restive moderates ready for a changing of the guard after nearly two decades under Pelosi’s reign.
The erosion of defectors reflects the support she’s since earned from a number of those earlier critics; the losses Democrats suffered at the polls earlier in the month, when four moderate Democrats who had opposed Pelosi’s Speakership bid on the House floor were picked off by GOP challengers; and the ascension of President-elect Joe Biden, whose victory over President Trump has tempered some of the party’s frustrations for losses down the ballot.
The outcome was never in doubt: Pelosi ran unopposed, and her dealings with Trump over the last two years have won the praise of even her sharpest Democratic critics.
Still, a small group of moderate lawmakers had pressed for a leadership overhaul after the party’s high expectations for expanding their majority at the polls this month were dashed when the results came in.
In a speech accepting the nomination, Pelosi vowed to work with the Biden administration to tackle a host of issues Democrats had promised on the campaign trail, including expanding access to health care, strengthening environmental protections, reforming police practices and bridging the vast racial disparities in economic well-being.
“The theme, I think, of what we do next has to be about justice,” she told the caucus.
To secure the gavel, Pelosi will still need to secure a majority of the full House in January. Fifteen Democrats had opposed her in that public floor vote in 2019, and at least 10 of them are returning in the 117th Congress — a figure significant enough to block her path, given the party’s slimmer majority next year.
Yet Pelosi has already won the support of several of those defectors, and she’s expected to rally enough votes to win the gavel for another term, when Democrats are hoping to advance an ambitious legislative slate under a Biden administration.
The caucus on Wednesday also reelected Pelosi’s top lieutenants, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who is credited with helping Biden win the Palmetto State and the party’s nomination that put the former vice president on a path to the White House. Hoyer and Clyburn ran unopposed.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), viewed among Democrats as the heir apparent to Pelosi, also ran unopposed and won a second term as House Democratic Caucus chairman, putting him in prime position to climb the leadership ladder once the old guard — Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn — steps aside.
Some centrist Democrats had tried to draft Jeffries to challenge Pelosi for Speaker, but the Brooklyn native and Pelosi loyalist didn’t entertain the idea.
The biggest contested race was for assistant Speaker. Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), the caucus vice chair, defeated Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), the head of the Democrats’ policy and messaging arm, on a 135 to 92 vote. Clark will succeed Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), who just won election to the Senate.
The other competitive race that will be decided this week is for caucus vice chair. That contest pits Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, against Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The race for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair has been postponed until the week after Thanksgiving to give the candidates, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.), more time to campaign and lock down votes.
The Democrats’ campaigns chief for the 2020 cycle, Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), decided not to seek a second term after nearly a dozen of her vulnerable front-line members she was tasked with protecting lost reelection and her party failed to unseat a single GOP incumbent.
Updated at 1:33 p.m.