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COVID-19 could complicate Pelosi's re-election as speaker

The vote for the next House speaker takes place on Sunday and the winner must receive a majority

Updated: January 4, 2021 - 9:52am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces some potential roadblocks on her quest to regain the speakership in the new Congress.

The full House of Representatives will vote on the new speaker for the 117th Congress on Sunday, and the winner must receive a majority, which is 217 votes.

The Democratic-led House implemented proxy voting which gave members the option to cast votes remotely during emergencies like a pandemic. However, the proxy voting rule change does not carry over to the new session so members must appear in-person to vote for the next speaker. 

The Democrats have a slim majority of 222 to 211 heading into the new session after Republicans defeated many Democratic incumbents in the November election.

Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Rick Larsen of Washington and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin recently tested positive for the virus and are likely not to vote in-person for speaker on Sunday. Rep.-elect Maria Elvira Salazar, a Florida Republican, also recently tested positive. 

COVID concerns might cause additional members to decide not to appear in-person for the vote, which could prevent Pelosi from reaching the votes she needs to win the speakership on Sunday.

Rep.-elect Luke Letlow, a Louisiana Republican, contracted COVID-19 and passed away on Tuesday.

Pelosi expressed confidence ahead of the speakership vote in a letter she wrote to her colleagues on Sunday.

"I am enormously grateful for the trust that members have placed in me," Pelosi wrote. "I am confident that the speaker’s election today will show a united Democratic Caucus ready to meet the challenges ahead, and that we are prepared to set our country on a new course, starting with the Electoral College meeting on Wednesday."

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