In the coming months, there will be lots of political news as Biden starts to announce a potential Cabinet, take on issues and generally prepare to assume office. Much of the news may center on a myriad of court cases challenging the vote in several states — and exactly how President Trump might deal with a transition.
Is Nancy Pelosi done?
At some point, news reports will start to surface regarding the organization of the 117th Congress. Republicans will still be in control of the Senate – pending the two Georgia run-off election in January. Most folks probably assume that Nancy Pelosi will again take up the high seat of Speaker of the House since Democrats remain in control. But is that a certainty?
While it has not yet broken out as a news story, there are whispers in Washington that suggest that Pelosi’s grasp on the Speaker’s gavel may not be totally secure. Members of the Democrat majority are already complaining that Pelosi promised to add new numbers to the majority – but instead saw Republicans gain five seats. The GOP flipped seven Democrat seats but lost two – for a gain of five.
Not only did Pelosi lose five seats in an election year that was supposed to substantially pad her margins, but Democrats in the new House are a tad more radical than even the 2018 class. The left-wing progressive caucus has been increasing its margin in the House and is now the second largest ideological caucus in Congress – pushing toward 100 members among the 227 Democrats. There is a lot of anti-Pelosi sentiment within that group – even though Pelosi was once a member of that group.
In 2018, there was a lot of testing of the waters by left-wing members interested in challenging Pelosi. Facing a hopeless situation, they abandoned the Dump Nancy movement and came on board in return for good committee assignments. That simmering effort may get ignited this time.
We need to recall that Pelosi faced a far-left challenger, Shahid Buttar, in the General Election. In California, the top two contenders compete in a run-off even if they are from the same party. It was not an entirely threatening challenge, but a stronger opposition than Pelosi experienced in the past – and more significantly, it was from the radical left.
To remain Speaker, Pelosi will need to secure a majority of the votes cast – and that includes Democrat and Republican votes. If every member votes, she would need 218 votes to be re-elected as speaker. That means Pelosi could only lose nine votes on her side of the aisle – and fewer, if there are non-votes or vacancies.
That is never easy in leadership fights, and more difficult now than ever. If an alternative candidate were to have 10 or more committed votes, it is possible that Republicans could support the challenger and boot Pelosi out – operating on the theory that anyone is better than Pelosi.
It would be a major irony if Pelosi were to lose the speakership just as she ends her suffering under a President she personally hates down to the marrow in her bones – and just as she has a President that comes from the same ideology and age group as herself. But politics is full of such ironies.
Trump was a common enemy that united the various factions within the Democratic Party. We are more likely to see those fault-lines more clearly in the future – and Pelosi may be the first and foremost example.
So, there ‘tis.