Nancy Pelosi reelected as House speaker as Democratic majority narrows

Key Points
  • The House reelected Nancy Pelosi as speaker.
  • Pelosi, 80, will lead the House for a fourth term.
  • She will lead a more narrow Democratic majority than the one she oversaw in the last Congress.
  • Pelosi aims to address coronavirus relief, health care and infrastructure, among other issues, in the next Congress.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) waves a gavel during the first session of the 117th Congress in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, U.S., January 3, 2021.
Tasos Katapodis | Reuters

The House reelected Nancy Pelosi as speaker on Sunday, extending the Democrat's second stint leading the chamber.

Pelosi, the only woman to serve as speaker, will hold the job for a fourth term. The 80-year-old reclaimed the gavel in 2019 after eight years of Republican control. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California will lead the GOP for a second term.

Pelosi got 216 votes, while McCarthy received 209. Five Democrats did not support Pelosi. Three voted "present," one supported Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., and another backed Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill.

The California Democrat leads a thinner majority after the GOP flipped at least 10 seats in the 2020 elections. Her party entered Sunday with an estimated 222 members, four more than the 218 needed for a majority in the full House.

Pelosi and President-elect Joe Biden will push to address issues including coronavirus relief, health care and infrastructure in the new Congress. The Tuesday runoff elections in Georgia, which will decide whether Republicans hold the Senate, will shape how much the pair can accomplish.

Before delivering remarks to the House on Sunday, Pelosi raised the speaker's gavel to applause from Democrats. She cited ending the coronavirus pandemic as "our most urgent priority."

"And defeat it we will," she said.

Pelosi and Biden have said they will push for another round of pandemic aid in the coming weeks. They described the $900 billion package signed into law last month as a down payment. Pelosi called Sunday for state and local government aid, a provision Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has opposed.

She added that the House should work with Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to "pursue justice — economic justice, justice in health, racial justice, environmental and climate justice."

Pelosi has insisted her party's seat losses will not reduce her leverage or force her to change her strategy. She has said the election of Biden, who takes office on Jan. 20, gives Democrats more power for the next two years.

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