Things did not go well for House Democrats on Election Day.
While some races are still being tabulated, Democrats lost some of “their most vulnerable members and have not picked off a single Republican incumbent heading into Wednesday evening,” The Hill reported. After all the votes are counted, Republicans could end up gaining as many as ten House seats.
The dismal performance — Democrats were expected to add seats, not lose them — has once again sparked talk of ousting 80-year-old House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The California Democrat has served in the House for 33 years and held two stints as Speaker, but her time at the top may be coming to an end — and that talk is coming from at least two moderate members of the party.
Two centrist Democrats told The Hill on Wednesday that they were “reaching out to their colleagues about backing one of Pelosi’s top lieutenants, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (NY), for Speaker in the next Congress.”
“He’s the only one prepared and positioned” to be Speaker, one of the Democratic lawmakers told the political website. “He bridges moderates and progressives better than anyone. And most importantly, he’s not Nancy Pelosi.”
Jeffries, for his part, told The Hill he’s focused on his current job.
Ousting a presiding Speaker is a dangerous undertaking. Lawmakers may grumble behind the scenes, but should they band together for a coup and fail, they become targets. That’s why most often the coup is usually heard only in the corridors of the Capitol — until it blows up. Once that happens, everyone comes out of the woodwork like roaches.
There were rumors in 2019 that some Democrats would make a move to unseat Pelosi, but that never reached critical mass.
Yet the shifting House after Tuesday’s election might put Pelosi in a tough position. “A slew of moderate lawmakers, whose wins in the 2018 midterms handed the gavel again to Pelosi, have lost or are on track to lose their seats,” The Daily Beast reported. “Meanwhile, several establishment Democrats are set to be replaced by staunch progressives, shifting Democrats’ political center of gravity further left in the lower chamber of Congress.”
Some House Republicans say Pelosi faces an uphill climb to hold onto the gavel.
“I mean Nancy Pelosi doesn’t even have a majority where she can be elected Speaker again,” Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said on Fox News on Wednesday. “Whoever would have guessed that it’d be possible that Nancy Pelosi might not be the Speaker?”
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said the waning Democratic majority — and a growing number of younger, more progressive members of the party — could hit Pelosi hard.
“I know the vote on the floor is difficult for Speaker. I know there was a number of people who did not vote for her last time,” McCarthy said at a press conference on Wednesday. “And as our numbers continue to grow, I think at the end of the day, no matter where we end up, we’ll be able to have a very big say, or even run the floor when it comes to policy.”