WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was nominated by House Democrats to be speaker on Wednesday, but she still faces a showdown vote when the full House convenes in January amid opposition that includes Maine’s Democratic congressman-elect.
Pelosi entered the closed-door caucus election in an unusual position — running unopposed despite the clamor by some Democrats for new leadership. Votes were still being counted, but she was assured of victory.
“Are there dissenters? Yes,” the California Democrat told reporters as voting was underway. “But I expect to have a powerful vote going forward.”
Pelosi was nominated as her party’s choice for speaker by Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts, with no fewer than eight colleagues set to second the choice. As House Democrats met in private in the Capitol, they faced a simple “yes” or “no” choice on the ballots.
Pelosi’s Democratic opponents pledged to usher in a new era for the party. But one by one, she picked off would-be challengers and smoothed skeptics, though she still lacks the vote tally she will need to ascend to the post in January, when the new Congress convenes.
In the end, there were no Democrats willing or able to mount a serious campaign against her bid to reclaim the speaker’s job, which she held from 2007 to 2011, before the GOP took back the majority.
“We all agree that history is in a hurry, and we need to accelerate the pace of change in Congress,” she wrote in a letter to members, noting the “historic” class of new first-term lawmakers who led Democrats to the majority in the midterm election.
“My responsibility is to recognize the myriad of talent and tools at our disposal to take us in to the future by showcasing the idealism, intellect and imagination of our caucus,” she wrote.
Those trying to oust Pelosi say they always knew the internal caucus election would fall in her favor. She only needed a simple majority of Democrats, who have a 233-seat majority, with several races still undecided, to win the nomination. But she’ll need 218 votes in January, half the full 435-seat House, which is harder, if all Republicans vote against her.
Rep.-elect Jared Golden, a Democrat from Maine’s 2nd District who called for new leadership in the party during his campaign and said he would oppose Pelosi’s bid for speaker, voted against her nomination Wednesday, said Jon Breed, his campaign manager. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat from Maine’s 1st District, voted for Pelosi, Pingree spokeswoman Victoria Bonney said.
Democrats are poised to return their entire top leadership team, including Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland in the No. 2 spot as majority leader and Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina in the No. 3 spot as whip. But a sign of the party’s mood emerged early in the day as Democrats elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York as caucus chairman over over veteran Rep. Barbara Lee of California, elevating the 48-year-old from the Congressional Black Caucus.
BDN writers Michael Shepherd and Alex Acquisto contributed to this report.