The Democrats taking back the House of Representatives in the wake of the Nov. 8 election, means that the leadership of the House is guaranteed to change significantly. For years, the House Minority Leader has been Democratic Congressman, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12). Many assumed that if the Democrats won back the House of Representatives, Pelosi would be the Speaker of the House as she was from 2007 until the very beginning of 2011. Despite this assumption, challenges to her likely leadership have been emerging in the form of criticisms from her fellow party members and at one point, direct challengers, who have since backed down.
In order to become the Speaker of the House, Pelosi must gain 218 or more votes, or find enough people to back her in the wake of Congress people voting “Present,” which would instead lower the minimum number of votes needed for Pelosi to win the Speakership. In the past few weeks, one challenger emerged who was likely to run against her, Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH-11), who later made the decision to not run against Pelosi and endorsed her instead. This came after reports emerged that Pelosi met with Fudge and, instead of trying to deter her from running, wanted to learn what was needed to gain the support of the Representative from Ohio.
Other critics of the House Minority Leader have also changed their minds. One critic, Representative Brian Higgins of New York’s 26 Congressional district, signed a letter vowing to vote for new leadership, a letter which included both incumbents and new congress people. Representative Higgins’ decision to back Pelosi might make him an outlier in the context of the signed letter, but not in the context of the greater Democratic Party wherein challenges to Pelosi have largely come in the form of words and not actions.
Thus far, no one has emerged to challenge her, only to announce that they’d vote against her. This appears consistent with what Representative-Elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY-14) who stated that when she was discussing her decision to back Pelosi, the challenges to Pelosi are coming from the right and not the left, despite the criticisms of the Representative sometimes having a progressive sounding point of view.
Currently, the next step in the process is for the parties to nominate their representatives for the Speakership. Pelosi has the power to influence the likelihood she’ll gain the nomination and eventually the Speakership by carefully engaging with her fellow members of the House of Representatives. If she is careful in engaging with her fellow Democrats and makes overtures based off of prioritizing their political passions and offering key Democratic House leaders positions in committees, then she could broker her way into securing stronger support heading into the vote for the Democratic nominee to the Speaker of the House.
Once each party selects their nominees, there will be a final vote in January wherein each Representative gets to vote for who they’d like to see as Speaker of the House.