Pelosi set to remain as House Speaker into Biden era

Pelosi set to remain as House Speaker into Biden era

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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WASHINGTON (AP) — House Democrats nominated Nancy Pelosi yesterday as the speaker to lead them into Joe Biden’s presidency, and shortly afterwards she seemed to suggest that these would be her final two years in the post.

Democrats, scattered around the country, used a voice vote to pick Pelosi to guide a smaller and ideologically divided House majority in shepherding Biden’s agenda toward enactment. It was the party’s first virtual leadership election, a response to the coronavirus pandemic.

At a news conference afterwards, Pelosi came close to affirming that these next two years leading the House would be her last.

Asked about her longevity, she cited her statement two years ago when she said she’d abide by a move to limit her speakership then to four more years.

“I don’t want to limit any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,” Pelosi, 80, told reporters. Even so, she stopped short of explicitly saying these would be her final two years in the post.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and No 3 party leader Jim Clyburn, Congress’ highest ranking black member, were re-elected to their positions, like Pelosi without opposition.

Clyburn revived Biden’s faltering bid for the Democratic presidential nomination this year by helping him win the South Carolina primary, a turnaround moment in Biden’s campaign.

“The theme, I think, of what we do next has to be about justice” in the economy, health care and policing, Pelosi told her colleagues after the vote, according to a transcript released by her office.

Underscoring Pelosi’s emphasis on inclusiveness, five of the seven Democrats who’d planned to deliver speeches backing her candidacy were women. They included congresswoman-elect Nikema Williams, who won the Atlanta-area district represented by John Lewis, the civil rights champion, until his death in July.

The full House will formally elect the new speaker when the new Congress convenes in early January, shortly before Biden’s January 20 inauguration. Hoyer’s and Clyburn’s jobs are party positions that don’t need House approval.

Pelosi has won wide acclaim among Democrats as a leading foe of outgoing President Donald Trump in battles over impeachment, immigration and health care.

She’s given as good as she’s gotten from the insult-prone Republican president, sometimes directly to his face, prompting him to call her “Crazy Nancy” and supporters to create memes and action figures honouring her.

But with some votes still being tallied in this month’s elections, 10 incumbent House Democrats have been defeated, dashing expectations of adding seats and damaging party morale. Democrats were on track to have perhaps a 222-213 majority, one of the smallest in decades.

This has sparked finger-pointing, with progressives saying the party failed to adequately win over minority and young liberal voters. Moderates say that they were hurt by far-left initiatives like defunding the police and that Pelosi should have struck a pre-election stimulus deal with the White House.

Besides bitterness over their election setback, many Democrats continue calling for fresh leadership. Pelosi and Hoyer have been the numbers one and two House Democrats since 2003, while Clyburn rose to the number three ranks in 2007.

Pelosi and Clyburn are 80, Hoyer is 81.

Pelosi’s re-election by the House would give her a seventh and eighth year as speaker.

She served the first four during the 2000s until Republicans recaptured the House majority in the tea party election of 2010, a conservative uprising that presaged the rise of Trump.

In one indication of her strength, one conservative Democrat who’s opposed Pelosi before said he expected her to be re-elected and said he might support her this time.

When the House elects its new speaker, Pelosi will need the majority of votes cast by both parties. Since nearly all Republicans are expected to back their leader, Kevin McCarthy, Pelosi can afford to lose only a few Democrats.

When Pelosi nailed down the support she needed to become speaker in 2018, she said she’d agreed to a proposal limiting her to serving in the job only through 2022. Several lawmakers and aides said memories of that commitment could lessen her opposition this time.

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