by WorldTribune Staff, December 28, 2020
Democrats are facing a nightmare scenario which would see a Republican elected Speaker of the House on Jan. 3, ending Nancy Pelosi’s reign despite Democrats holding a slim majority.
It would only take a small number of Democrats being exposed to covid prior to the vote for Pelosi to potentially be in trouble.
In May, the House adopted emergency rules allowing vote by proxy to protect members against coronavirus. Democrats have been taking advantage of this proxy-voting rule in significant numbers. On Dec. 18, for example, nearly 90 Democrats voted by proxy.
But the proxy-voting rule expires with the new Congress. Rules governing the new Congress can’t be adopted until after the Jan. 3 vote for speaker.
So lawmakers are required to be in the Capitol in person if they want to participate in the Jan. 3 floor vote for speaker and candidates for speaker must receive a majority of the votes cast in person.
Democrats, with a thin majority of 222 seats following the 2020 election, are concerned that, out of covid fears, some of their members won’t be able to make it to the Jan. 3 vote.
“Covid is a wild card,” said Georgia Democrat Rep. Hank Johnson. “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.”
Three moderate Democrats say they don’t intend to vote for Pelosi. Several Democrats have health conditions that have kept them from the Capitol in 2020.
Kentucky Democrat Rep. John Yarmuth said it is possible that Republicans could outnumber Democrats for the vote and the top Republican in the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, could be elected speaker.
“Let’s say, just theoretically, we had six or eight people out with covid and the Republicans have none. They probably could elect McCarthy,” Yarmuth told The Hill.
A House Democrat and Pelosi ally who spoke anonymously with The Hill doesn’t deny that a covid outbreak could sink Pelosi’s chances.
“We’re in a health care crisis, right? No one can get sick. That’s the X-factor here. We need everyone to be healthy… That’s the big fear.”