Who is she?
Nancy Pelosi has been serving as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives since 2011. Prior to that, she served as the Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011 and the Minority Leader from 2003 to 2007. She has served 16 terms in Congress as a representative from California since 1993 and is about to serve her 17th term in 2019.
Pelosi was the first woman to be the leader of either chamber of congress. Her ascent to Speaker of the House made her the highest-ranking female politician in U.S. history. During and after her tenure as speaker, her power and high position became contentious.
What’s the controversy?
Among opposition Democrats, the main point of contention against Pelosi is simple: she’s making it harder for them to win elections. With a left-leaning agenda, Republicans have used her high-profile position as the leader of House Democrats to associate her with Democrats running in moderate congressional districts, making it harder for them to win.
Before the 2018 midterm, Congressional Democrats have lost a lot of seats in recent years. They suffered huge losses in 2010 and 2014 and gained very few seats in 2012 and 2016. In 2017, they lost all four special elections.
As the leader of House Democrats, this is a bad look for Pelosi since she is supposed to strategize and lead her party to winning as many seats as possible. After the Republicans took over the House and her tenure as speaker ended in 2011, there have been talks of replacing her, but she has remained persistent on keeping her position.
What’s this about Democratic opposition?
After the midterm elections, the talks of ousting Pelosi hit the ground running. A group of dissidents, including some newcomers who campaigned on promising to change Congress, wanted new leadership at the top of the party. However, some feared going public and facing retaliation. Although Pelosi has made no signs of this if she became speaker, there’s a rich history of this occurring in the U.S.
On Nov. 19, 16 House Democrats wrote a letter opposing Pelosi. Even though they opposed her re-election, there were still no challengers running against her, highlighting fears of retaliation for going against the powerful representative.
Why does this matter?
The vote for Speaker of the House will help set the tone for the Democratic Party going into the 2020 presidential election. Whether Pelosi wins or not, the next speaker will set the agenda for the House, the only branch of government Democrats control. The speaker will also guide and strategize Democrats in elections both up and down the ballot for 2020.
What just happened?
On Wednesday, in a secret-ballot vote, Pelosi won the support from 203 Democrats with 32 no votes and three blank ballots. To become speaker, Pelosi will need at least 218 votes, a simple majority, in a House floor vote set for January 3. While these results showed the gap in votes she needs to reclaim the position, it also showed the limits of the group of dissidents in preventing her victory.