California US Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), as expected, was elected Speaker of the 116th House of Representatives, winning 220 votes for the position. She escaped going to a second ballot by only two votes. Fifteen members of her own party, including four who are not serving their first full term, voted for another individual.
Ms. Pelosi, the 52nd Speaker of the House, returns to the position she held from 2007 to 2011. This is the first time since 1955 that an individual has returned to the Speakership after exiting. She is the sixth person in US history to regain the Speaker’s gavel after her party lost the majority.
It appears the previous House Democratic leadership will return in tact when Congress convenes on January 3rd, but Minority Leader and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) still has a major hurdle to overcome after coming through yesterday’s Democratic Conference meeting as the party nominee for Speaker. A total of 32 members voted “no” on the secret ballot slate and three present members did not vote even though Ms. Pelosi was the only name on the ballot.
The “no” option was added to the ballot likely to give many members the ability to oppose Pelosi since some committed to doing so on the campaign trail. The members were allowed to take a picture of their ballot and can release it publicly. The idea of presenting this option is to give those who needed to oppose Pelosi the opportunity of doing so, so they can proceed to vote for her on the opening day of session when it will really count.
To be elected Speaker, a candidate must obtain a majority of 218 votes. Members vote publicly when they answer the first roll call. Therefore, the 35 members not supporting Pelosi – the 36th unrecorded vote belongs to Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) who is currently hospitalized – will be critical to the final vote early next year. The fact that Ms. Pelosi only received 203 votes from her Conference suggests that she is not yet home free in the Speakers’ contest come January 3rd.
Former Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) will return to his previous position, as will Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) as the Majority Whip. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) was unopposed for the position of Assistant Majority Leader. New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn) was elected Conference Chairman, defeating Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) by just a ten-vote margin. The remaining leadership positions, including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair, will be decided in further conference voting today.
With the 2018 campaign results now in the books, or close to it (the one exception being the outstanding CA-21 race that now favors Democrat T.J. Cox to defeat GOP Rep. David Valadao), we can look at the detailed composition of the new House and Senate.
The House will feature 235 Democrats and 200 Republicans, a gain of 40 Democratic seats when compared to the previous Congress. A total of 93 are freshmen, not counting the nine members who came to the House as special election winners in 2017 and ’18. Of the 93 freshmen, 62 are Democrats. A total of 244 House members will have served three full terms or less when the new Congress convenes, making this the least senior chamber in the modern political era.
The Senate will feature 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats, eight of whom are freshmen. This number does not include the two appointed Senators, Tina Smith (D-MN) and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), who have now been elected in their own right. The Republicans gained a net two seats when compared to the previous Congress. In 2020, 22 Republicans will be defending their seats versus just 12 Democrats, the opposite of the 2018 situation where the latter party was on the defensive in 26 of the 35 election campaigns.
Though it appears that the incoming freshman class of the 116th Congress will feature approximately 90 new members, the number is not even close to setting a record. The largest all-time House freshman class featured 176 members in the 54th Congress (1895-97).
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