The House Democrats, who were preparing for what is perhaps the smallest majority in two decades, voted on Wednesday to re-elect spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi as their chairperson and officially nominated the California Democrat for another term as spokeswoman, which she could propose later as her last.
Ms. Pelosi, 80, has yet to get 218 votes in the House to become spokeswoman in January. But she is on the right track, some of the Democrats who opposed getting the hammer in 2019 are behind her now and others are packing their offices after losing.
Speaking at a press conference after Democrats virtually gathered to choose their leaders, Ms. Pelosi said it was still her intention to uphold the 2018 commitment to resign after two more terms as a speaker. She left room for herself to change course, but the implication was that the upcoming term would likely be her last after nearly two decades as a democratic leader and that she wanted to help nurture the next generation of leaders.
“If my husband is listening, don’t let me be specific,” she teased. “We never expected to have another term now. I think that’s a gift. And I can’t wait to work with Joe Biden and prepare for our transition into the future. “
She added, “I don’t want to undermine my leverage, but I made the statement.”
The Democrats were also re-elected for another term. Ms. Pelosi’s senior MP, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, 81, as the Majority Leader, and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, 80, as the Democratic whip.
However, the actions of the caucus on Wednesday made it clear that they were assembling a new cohort of executives to await their replacement.
The Democrats reaffirmed Rep Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the leading candidate to succeed Ms. Pelosi, as their Chair and Elevated Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, a progressive vice spokeswoman, the party’s No. 4 position vis-à-vis Rep David Cicilline of Rhode Island. Mr. Jeffries, 50) and Ms. Clark, 57, are in a close relationship and are likely to rise up together.
“This is the moment for America to unite and finally build a nation that fulfills our promise of justice for all,” said Ms. Clark. “We cannot settle for the normal; we must instead expand the parameters of wealth to ensure that everyone has an equal chance of success.”
Ms. Pelosi will face a unique challenge in January, with little room for maneuver between the party’s progressive and moderate wings as she works to implement President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s agenda.
The Democrats’ failure to defeat a single incumbent Republican after losing at least eight of their own turned the comfortable 232 to 197 advantage into what is probably the thinnest Democratic lead since World War II. With a handful of races yet to be advertised, the Democrats are likely to control around 222 seats, so no more than a few of their members can be out on a given vote.
“I think the issue of what we do next has to be justice,” Ms Pelosi said in private remarks to fellow Democrats after the vote, an aide-de-camp said. She added that “justice has to be at stake” in the economy, the judiciary, the environment and health care.
With Ms. Pelosi’s re-election on Wednesday, the Washington political landscape that Mr. Biden will greet in January continues to take shape. On Tuesday, House Republicans elected their leaders for the next Congress. California minority representative Kevin McCarthy will continue in that office.