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House Democrats nominate Nancy Pelosi to be next speaker as opposition falters

Key Points
  • House Democrats nominate Nancy Pelosi to be the next speaker.
  • Pelosi faced opposition from numerous members of her party who called for new leadership when Democrats take the House majority in January.
  • If she wins a floor vote in January, she would take the speaker's gavel that she had to cede in 2011.
Going to have sessions of Congress like America’s town hall meeting: Pelosi

House Democrats nominated Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to be the next House speaker on Wednesday, giving the longtime party leader a vote of confidence amid rebellion from some members of the caucus.

She still needs to win a majority in a roll call vote on the House floor on Jan. 3, when her party will take control of the chamber for the first time in eight years. Some Democrats expect to oppose Pelosi's bid for speaker after calling for new leadership.

Pelosi earned the nomination by a 203-32 margin Wednesday. The 32 votes of opposition would be enough to sink her bid on the House floor, but some of those members will likely support her in January. When Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, challenged her for minority leader in 2016, he garnered 63 votes.

Pelosi, the first woman to serve as House speaker, would take over the post she last held in 2011. On Wednesday afternoon, she said, "It was so inspiring to hear my colleagues place my name in nomination once again" for speaker. She ran unopposed for the nomination.

While numerous current and incoming Democratic lawmakers initially opposed Pelosi's bid for speaker, a serious challenge to the California Democrat never materialized. Asked about the whip count for the upcoming speaker vote, Pelosi responded, "I think we're in pretty good shape."

Earlier Wednesday, the leaders of the Pelosi opposition — Democratic Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Kathleen Rice of New York and Ryan — met with the minority leader ahead of caucus leadership votes. After the talks, Moulton said "no agreement was reached" about a leadership transition.

"We are hopeful Leader Pelosi will invite us back to the table to plan for the future success of the Democratic Party," he said in a statement.

Also Wednesday, the Democratic members of the Problem Solvers Caucus — a bipartisan group of lawmakers who cast themselves as centrist — said they reached a deal to support Pelosi for speaker in conjunction with rules changes. The group says the tweaks will help to cut through gridlock in Congress. 

Pelosi, 78, has led House Democrats for 16 years, prompting some members of the caucus to call for a younger leader. But no serious challenger surfaced.

Pelosi's allies also questioned the need to replace her after the party gained at least 39 GOP-held House seats in the Nov. 6 midterms to take a majority. The longtime leader is known for her fundraising prowess.

Democrats will hold at least 234 seats in the House starting in January, with one contest, California's 21st District, still undecided. With 234 Democratic seats, Pelosi could lose 16 members of her caucus and still become speaker. Exactly 16 members signed on to a letter opposing her speakership after the midterms, but some of those representatives have since supported the minority leader.

Still, some current or incoming lawmakers who opposed Pelosi on Wednesday said they would not budge. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., said he would vote against the leader on the floor, arguing "we need new leadership to put the partisan gridlock behind us." Democratic Rep.-elect Max Rose of New York also pledged to oppose Pelosi in January, saying "we need to show the American people that we've heard their call for change." 

Democrats also elected Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., as House majority leader. Hoyer, 79, previously held the post during Pelosi's tenure as speaker.

The party chose Rep. Jim Clyburn, R-S.C., for majority whip, the third ranking leadership position. The 78-year-old also served in that role the last time the Democrats held the House. 

Democrats looking for a younger generation of leaders saw at least one positive development Wednesday. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a 48-year-old from New York, narrowly defeated 72-year-old Rep. Barbara Lee of California in the race to become Democratic caucus chairman.

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