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Democratic Lawmakers Could End Up with GOP House Speaker Thanks to COVID-19 Rules

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Democratic Lawmakers Could End Up with GOP House Speaker Thanks to COVID-19 Rules

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi looks on during a press conference on Capitol Hill on Dec. 20 in Washington, D.C.Tasos Katopodis / Getty ImagesSpeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi looks on during a Dec. 20 news conference on Capitol Hill. (Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)

By Mike Boyd
Published December 28, 2020 at 5:50pm

Due to a number of unforeseen events, current Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s grip on power has grown more tenuous. The vote for her to retain her lofty position is scheduled for Jan. 3, and there is anxiety among some Pelosi allies that there may not be enough Democratic votes on that date for her to keep the gavel.

According to The Hill, COVID-19 illnesses, a loss of a dozen Democratic seats during the 2020 elections and three obstinate Democratic House members could keep enough Democratic voting members from voting “yes” that it could cost Pelosi the speaker’s position. Not only that, but it could even mean a Republican like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California could sneak in and win the coveted spot.

The role and election of the top leadership position in the House is not defined in the Constitution. Instead, it’s up to the House to make its own rules. During the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Hill, House rules have allowed members to vote remotely by phone. However, those rules expire at the end of the year. The rules outlined for the Jan. 3 vote stipulate that a member has to be present in the House chamber to cast a ballot. That’s where things can get tricky.

So far 35 members of Congress have come down with the disease, five are out right now and if a family member or colleague comes down with the virus, members are told to quarantine for 14 days, according to The Hill.

Besides the possibility of not having sick members able to vote, according to The Hill, there are likely three Democratic members who are not supporting Pelosi: Reps. Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania, Jared Golden of Maine and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan.

Some Democrats don’t discount the possibility of surprise in the speaker vote. Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth told The Hill that COVID-19 is the wild card.

“Let’s say, just theoretically, we had six or eight people out with COVID and the Republicans have none. They probably could elect McCarthy.”

Another Democratic lawmaker also thinks the outcome is not certain, especially with Democrats holding only a slim majority after November’s elections and departures of those chosen to serve in a potential Biden administration, according to CNN.

“COVID is a wild card,” said Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia told The Hill. “If we have sick members who cannot come back, and we only have a four-vote majority, it throws our entire advent of the 117th Congress in peril — a smooth advent.”

Johnson added that an appearance of chaos just before the Senate runoff elections in Georgia would look bad. “The implications that it could have on the race[s] down in Georgia, it is unsettling,” he told The Hill.

To avoid it, Pelosi is calling on all of her loyalists to put the heat on a number of her naysayers hoping they will stay the course, The Hill reported.

One member who voted against Pelosi during the November caucus, says he’ll now vote for her.

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