Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is desperately whipping support to maintain her hold on the Speaker’s position, and she’s urging her supporters in Congress to return to Washington, D.C., in January in order to be present for the vote, even if they’re currently staying away over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic — and even though Pelosi has been reticent to recall her caucus for legislation.
House Democrats, Senate Republicans, and Trump administration officials are still hammering out the details of a coronavirus relief package, but as Republican Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pointed out Monday, Pelosi has yet to recall Democrats to Washington to vote on such a vital piece of legislation.
“Pelosi is fine with House Democrats skipping work if the votes are about legislation, but in January she will demand every Democrat show up—in person—to vote for her for Speaker,” McCarthy said, per Fox News. “Her message is clear: her power is more important than anything else.”
Indeed, Pelosi has been demanding her supporters return for the vote, which will happen among House members in attendance when Congress gavels back into session on January 3rd, following the holiday break. Only those who are present for the vote can cast a ballot, and Pelosi, Politico reports, needs all the help she can get.
“Pelosi and her allies have been ratcheting up their lobbying campaign in recent weeks to ensure House Democrats are in the Capitol that first Sunday in January,” the outlet noted over the weekend. “Pelosi has had help from her top deputies, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC), according to several sources familiar with the effort. She and her supporters have also deployed former Obama administration alumni and big donors to help squeeze undecided Democrats, in addition to influential politicians and labor leaders in lawmakers’ home states.”
Pelosi is currently leading the race, but only by a narrow margin. Her rift with progressives and Democratic Socialists in Congress has only grown wider, and the Democrats had a number of unexpected losses in the November election. Even though the party appears to have narrowly defeated President Donald Trump to take the White House, Democrats lost big in down-ticket, state-level, and House and Senate races, narrowing their House majority significantly.
They now hold just a 10-seat margin over Republicans, 222-212, with the results of just one race outstanding.
Last session, Democrats cast a number of “protest” votes against Pelosi, but with a larger margin over Republicans, Pelosi was able to retain the Speaker’s gavel regardless. This time around, Politico notes, Pelosi needs “near perfect” compliance from rank-and-file Democrats, with few defectors.
House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-MA) tried to make it clear just how important this vote is to Pelosi in a scathing memo to House Democrats. “Handing control of this chamber over to the Republicans would negate the will of the American people, block the Biden administration’s ambitious agenda, and continue President Trump’s disastrous policies long after he’s gone,” he wrote.
So far, just three Democrats say they’ll vote against Pelosi, but several others are committed to voting “present,” and still others have yet to decide whether they’ll risk the novel coronavirus in order to vote on the Speaker position.