Election 2020

How Nancy Pelosi Could Lose the Speakership Even if Democrats Hold the House

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) may be in serious trouble come January. While prognosticators predicted that Democrats would take the majority in the U.S. Senate and pick up more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives this year, Republicans actually held on to many contested seats and they picked up seats in the House. In fact, some have suggested that Pelosi may lose control of the House even if Democrats keep their majority.

On Sunday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) insisted that Republicans are “close enough now that we can control the floor with a few Democrats joining us.”

That prospect is not as far-fetched as some think. Some Democrats broke with Pelosi in 2018, voting against her taking the helm on the House floor.

“To become speaker, you have to have 218 votes on the floor,” McCarthy explained. “When [Pelosi] went up for that vote two years ago, there were 15 Democrats who voted against her. Ten of those Democrats will be coming back to Congress. If those ten vote against her again, she will not be speaker of the House because she won’t have 218 because of the gains of the Republicans.”

McCarthy insisted that Americans “rejected socialism” in the 2020 elections — and indeed, President Trump’s anti-socialism message seems to have resonated with Cubans, Venezuelans, Colombians, and others who either fled socialism personally or whose recent ancestors fled the horrors of socialism. Two Cuban American Republicans won election to the House in Miami-Dade.

McCarthy also noted that Republicans gained among minorities and women in the 2020 elections, and the number of Republican women elected to Congress hit a new record.

While Pelosi told 60 Minutes that socialism was “not the view of her party” in 2019, she has refused to condemn socialism amid the post-election Democratic civil war over the term.

Even though Democrats are likely to hold on to the majority in the House, the possibility exists that the right Republican might be able to pick up a few Democratic defectors and become the speaker. It remains to be seen if McCarthy or any other Republican can do so.

Expect a tense battle for control of the floor when the new House takes office in January.

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Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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