Slim margins, COVID-19 absences threaten Nancy Pelosi’s Speaker election

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What would ordinarily be a day of celebration Sunday as new representatives flock to the US Capitol for swearing-in has Democrats sweating over the re-election for their leader, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

With Pelosi’s party holding only 222 seats — and with an unknown number of representatives sidelined by COVID-19 — things may get complicated.

Under House rules, the first order of business for a new Congress is the election of a speaker. Until one person wins an outright majority of representatives who are present for the vote, no other business can be done.

But the Democrats’ new caucus gives Pelosi little room to maneuver — with only five votes more than the 217 she would need to win a new term as speaker.

And that’s if everyone shows up for the vote. At least two Democrats, Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wash.), have tested positive for the coronavirus since Dec. 23 — and under CDC guidelines should remain in quarantine.

And up to a dozen Democrats have promised their constituents not to support Pelosi for another turn in the powerful role. Ten of the 15 moderates who voted against her in 2019 are returning to Congress for new terms, and several — including Reps. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Jared Golden (D-Maine) and Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) — have pledged to oppose her.

Two incoming “Squad”-aligned progressives, Reps.-elect Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.), have refused to reveal whether they would back Pelosi in Sunday’s vote.

Meanwhile, the 211 House Republicans are united behind Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

Pelosi has publicly displayed a brave face, but tensions are high behind the scenes.

“My opponent is covid,” she told fellow Dems on Monday, The Washington Post reported.

Pelosi, a California congresswoman since 1987, served as speaker from 2007 to 2011, and was again elected to the post in 2019. New Congress – new Speaker?

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