Washington, Jan 2 (efe-epa).- Nancy Pelosi, the highest-ranking Democrat in the United States Congress, will seek re-election as speaker of the House on Sunday with a narrow majority.
The new lawmakers elected in the Nov. 3 elections will be sworn in at noon on Sunday and, shortly after, will begin voting to elect the House speaker, which could last for hours.
Pelosi, 80, a representative from California, is expected to hold on to her post but she could face two problems: potential Democratic defections and the absence of some lawmakers due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The Nov. 3 election, in which Democrat Joe Biden was elected as US president, left his party with a narrow majority in the House of Representatives, which it has controlled since January 2019.
Democrats lost ten seats in the elections and were left with 222 seats in the lower house while the Republicans gained 15 new seats and finished with 211.
The Democrats managed to keep their majority but with the slimmest margin, any party has had in the last 20 years.
To be re-elected, Pelosi needs 218 votes of the 222 Democrats in the House of Representatives, if all the legislators attend Sunday’s session.
The Democrat has held the post previously from 2007 to 2011.
The House speaker is third in line for the presidency behind the vice president and president.
Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership have asked lawmakers to travel to Washington DC earlier to make sure they are present for the vote.
On Monday, Pelosi told reporters that she was confident.
But later, during a call with fellow Democrats, she acknowledged that she was concerned about possible absences and said: “My opponent is covid,” a Democratic source told The Washington Post.
Since restrictions to contain the pandemic began to be imposed in March, dozens of Democratic lawmakers have been physically absent from House votes.
In fact, in May, the lower house changed its rules to allow for remote voting.
Some 100 Democratic lawmakers, some of them elderly, have used that option.
However, legislators will have to be physically present on Sunday because the swearing-in of members can only happen in person and also because proxy-voting rules are not scheduled to be renewed for the new Congress until Monday.
Some Democrats have privately expressed frustration with Pelosi’s leadership but tempers are much calmer than in 2019 when she was elected House speaker, a source familiar with the internal debates in the party told EFE.
According to the source, Pelosi is expected to leave the post in two years under a deal she struck in 2018 with the more left-wing Democrats that demanded a younger leadership.
Moreover, this time Pelosi is running for re-election without any opponent.
However, if she fails to get re-elected, it could plunge the Democratic Party into chaos trying to find a new leader and that could hinder the crucial session on Jan. 6, when both houses of Congress will have to ratify Biden’s victory over the outgoing president, Donald Trump.