Nancy Pelosi Picked By Democrats To Be House Speaker; Full House Vote In January The caucus vote is just the first of two key elections Pelosi needs to win. The full House formally votes on its next speaker on Jan. 3, the first day of Congress' next session.
NPR logo Democrats Pick Nancy Pelosi As House Speaker, Despite Earlier Internal Opposition

Democrats Pick Nancy Pelosi As House Speaker, Despite Earlier Internal Opposition

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California has been chosen by her party to be speaker of the House come January. The final vote on speakership is on Jan. 3. Carolyn Kaster/AP hide caption

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Carolyn Kaster/AP

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California has been chosen by her party to be speaker of the House come January. The final vote on speakership is on Jan. 3.

Carolyn Kaster/AP

House Democrats nominated Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to serve as the next speaker of the House. If approved by the full House, Pelosi would again wield the gavel in January — a dozen years after she became the first female speaker in 2007.

The vote was 203 voting for Pelosi, 32 opposing her and three members leaving their ballot blank. One member was absent.

After more than a year of party angst about needing fresh and younger faces in leadership, House Democrats will almost certainly emerge from their internal caucus election with the same three people in its top three posts: Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn.

The secret Democratic ballot is the first of two key elections Pelosi needs to win to officially become the first House speaker since Sam Rayburn to hold the post then go into the minority and then win the job again. Pelosi was speaker from 2007 to 2011, the last time the Democrats held the chamber.

The full House of Representatives will formally vote on its next speaker on Jan. 3, the first day of Congress' next session.

Speaking to reporters as the votes were being counted down the hall, Pelosi said it was "so inspiring to hear my colleagues place my name in nomination once again for Speaker of the House."

Heading into the internal vote, Pelosi had faced the most serious challenge of her leadership tenure. Sixteen House Democrats had signed a letter vowing to oppose her in January's floor vote for House speaker. While it was not enough to block Pelosi from being selected on Wednesday, the figure was just shy of the threshold of votes needed to keep Pelosi from winning the needed 218 votes on the House floor in January.

Two things have happened since the anti-Pelosi letter emerged. First, Democrats continued to win House races that had been too close to call on election night, slowly building their majority to what could ultimately be a 40-seat gain. Every additional Democrat-held seat gives Pelosi more space to win the speakership even with several Democrats voting against her.

Second, Pelosi successfully defused the letter's threat by winning support from Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, the one Democrat who had considered challenging Pelosi for the speakership. Pelosi cut a deal with Fudge, creating a new House subcommittee on elections and naming Fudge as the chair.

Pelosi took a similar approach with several other House Democrats who had either promised to vote against her or had refused to say which way they would cast their ballots. She got New York Rep. Brian Higgins to go from signing the letter to endorsing her speaker bid by promising to work with Higgins on two of his priorities: lowering the age for Medicare eligibility and improving infrastructure

In addition to selecting their nominee for speaker, Democrats are choosing their majority leader, majority whip and several other leadership positions. In one small surprise, 48-year-old Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., was elected as caucus chair, defeating Rep. Barbara Lee of California for the fourth-ranking leadership position.