House Democrats, still counting their election losses, re-elected Speaker Nancy Pelosi as their leader on Wednesday by voice vote, formally nominating the California Democrat for another term as speaker as they prepare for what may be the slimmest House majority in nearly two decades.
Ms. Pelosi, 80, still has to secure 218 votes on the House floor to become speaker come January, but she is on track to do so, with some of the Democrats who opposed her acquiring the gavel in 2019 now lining up behind her and others packing up their offices after losing.
“The theme, I think, of what we do next has to be about justice,” Ms. Pelosi told fellow Democrats in remarks after the votes, according to an aide. “It has to be about justice in our economy. It has to be about justice in our justice system, passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Breonna Taylor, say her name. Say her name. Justice in our environment, environmental justice. Justice in our health care.”
Ms. Pelosi also implored Democrats, who have been trading blame over the party’s unexpected congressional losses, to unify and put their ears to the ground to listen to their constituents.
Convening virtually because of the worsening coronavirus pandemic, Democrats also re-elected Ms. Pelosi’s top deputies, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland as majority leader and Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina as Democratic Whip.
The caucus also re-affirmed Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, a potential successor to Ms. Pelosi, as their chairman and elevated Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, a progressive, to be assistant speaker, the party’s No. 4, over Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island. The results position Mr. Jeffries, 50, and Ms. Clark, 57, as leading contenders to replace Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Hoyer, 81, and Mr. Clyburn, 80, when they retire.
Ms. Pelosi, who is closing in on nearly two decades as the leader of House Democrats, will face a unique challenge come January with little room to maneuver between the party’s feuding progressive and moderate wings as she works to deliver President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s agenda.
Democrats’ failure to defeat a single Republican incumbent as they lost at least eight of their own transformed what was a comfortable 232-to-197 advantage into what is likely to be Democrats’ thinnest margin since World War II. With a handful of races still to be called, Democrats will probably control around 222 seats, allowing no more than a few of their members to defect on any given vote.
With Ms. Pelosi’s re-election on Wednesday, the political landscape in Washington that will greet Mr. Biden in January is continuing to take shape. On Tuesday, House Republicans elected their leaders for the next Congress; Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, will continue in that post.
Mr. Biden is continuing to assemble his own team. After naming a veteran aide, Ron Klain, to serve as his chief of staff last week, Mr. Biden announced a set of White House staff appointments on Tuesday. The president-elect also received a briefing from former national security officials and held another set of phone calls with foreign leaders, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
On Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic rages across the country, Mr. Biden is set to participate in a virtual event with frontline health care workers.
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