Five centrist Democrats oppose Pelosi for Speaker in tight vote

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) lost five Democratic defectors in her razor-thin margin for winning reelection to what is likely to be her final term as Speaker on Sunday in a vote that fell under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic and a historically thin House majority.

Pelosi managed to win over some of the 15 Democrats who previously declined to back her for Speaker in 2019 to muscle her way to another two years leading House Democrats.

But a handful of centrists who represent competitive districts who also opposed Pelosi for Speaker in 2019 did so again on Sunday at the start of the new session of Congress.

Pelosi won 216 votes to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) 209. Not a single Republican defected from McCarthy, compared to six in 2019. Other defectors from two years ago did not win reelection.

Lawmakers can nominate anyone to be Speaker as a symbolic gesture — even people who are not members of the House.

Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) cast his Speaker vote for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a former House member turned senator who was considered a potential running mate for President-elect Joe Biden last year. Golden voted two years ago for Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.), who was the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at the time.

Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), meanwhile, voted for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who is considered a rising star in the caucus ranks. Lamb previously cast his vote for Speaker in 2019 for former Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), who was unsuccessful in his primary challenge last year against Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).

Three additional Democrats voted “present”: Reps. Mikie Sherrill (N.J.), Elissa Slotkin (Mich.) and Abigail Spanberger (Va.). Slotkin similarly voted “present” in 2019, while Spanberger and Sherrill had voted for Bustos.

Slotkin said ahead of the vote that she gave Pelosi a heads up and argued that Democrats should be making room for new leaders from the Midwest.

“I’ve been pretty vocal about the need for more Midwestern leaders, people who represent areas like where I’m from. And also I think it’s important to be training a next generation of leaders, right? As just a healthy habit of building the bench. So I was upfront with her. We had a one-on-one conversation right after the election, just as we did back in 2018. And I’m going to vote to live up to that commitment to my district,” Slotkin told reporters.

Spanberger similarly called for new leadership from Pelosi, who has led House Democrats in both the majority and minority since 2003.

“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,” Spanberger said in a statement.

Pelosi won over some Democrats who opposed her for Speaker in 2019, including Reps. Jim Cooper (Tenn.), Jason Crow (Colo.), Ron Kind (Wis.), Kathleen Rice (N.Y.), and Kurt Schrader (Ore.).

Since then, Pelosi tapped Crow to serve as an impeachment manager to argue House Democrats’ case before the Senate last year. Rice also recently won a coveted seat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Cooper has declined to support Pelosi in every Speaker election since 2011 and twice voted for former Secretary of State Colin Powell. In 2019, Cooper voted “present.”

Democrats currently have a 222-211 majority over Republicans, with two seats not yet filled.

Two Republicans missed the Speaker election on Sunday after testing positive for COVID-19: Reps.-elect Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.) and David Valadao (Calif.).

But the Capitol physician approved the installation of a Plexiglass enclosure in the visitors’ gallery overlooking the House chamber to accommodate members who were subject to quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure.

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), who announced six days ago that she had tested positive for COVID-19, also said Sunday that she had received clearance from the Capitol physician to vote on the floor. But Moore acknowledged to a reporter that she had not received a negative test.

Tags Abigail Spanberger Cheri Bustos Colin Powell David Valadao Ed Markey Elissa Slotkin Gwen Moore Hakeem Jeffries Jason Crow Jim Cooper Joe Biden Joe Kennedy Kathleen Rice Kevin McCarthy Kurt Schrader Mikie Sherrill Nancy Pelosi Ron Kind speaker vote Tammy Duckworth

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