United States: House Speaker Pelosi Reelected at Session that Mirrors Wednesday’s Tense Joint Electoral Vote Certification Plenary

The Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi has been reelected to the helm of the Chamber during the first session of the 117th Congress convened Sunday, January 3. House Representatives voted for speaker ahead of their swearing-in Sunday evening, with Pelosi garnering support from 216 Democrats. The 216 votes pushed the California Democrat over the threshold of 214 to secure the House's most coveted position. Speaker Pelosi would be working to hold together the slimmest majority her party has had to lead in Congress for decades.

Despite speculations that Speaker Pelosi was going to face an uphill task securing the top job once more, judging from the agitations of some House Representatives in her caucus, she finally sailed through easily. In the end, two Democrats; Jared Golden of Maine and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania each cast their votes for Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Congressman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, respectively, while three Democratic House members simply voted “present”.

Members of the US Congress' Progressive Squad (C) Daily Mail

Remarkably, all four members of a progressive group of women that have come to be known as “The Squad” defied the bets and voted for Speaker Pelosi. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, all squad members stood by the House Speaker. At the same time, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy won 209 votes from Republicans to retain his position.

The most remarkable moment during Sunday’s Session of Congress came when a Texas Representative, Chip Roy, a Republican, objected to seating 67 representatives from Arizona, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Nevada. In a statement, Rep. Roy justified his act on grounds that a number of his colleagues, including fellow members of the House Freedom Caucus, plan to challenge the Electoral College votes from those states over “their deeply held belief that those states conducted elections plagued by statewide, systemic fraud and abuse”.

The Texas Republican further stated Sunday that “After all, those representatives were elected through the very same systems, the same ballot procedures, with the same signature validations, with the same broadly applied decisions of executive Judicial branch officials, as were the electors chosen for the President of the United States under the laws of those states, which have become the subject of national controversy”.

Texas Representative Chip Roy (C) The Texas Tribune

Reacting to critics on social media who thought it was of no essence to oppose the certification of the Electoral Votes from the states, Rep. Roy wrote on Twitter that “While the Constitution and the 12th Amendment do not make Congress the judge of the states’ presidential electors, it does require us to be the arbiters of the elections to this body. If the electors for the office of the president were not in question, neither would be the election certificates of my colleagues present here today. The father of our country, George Washington, famously called the Constitution, which his wisdom helped craft and guide to fruition “the guide which I never will abandon,” We owe it the same fidelity in this case and all others”.

The House Representatives whose certificates Rep. Roy opposed were all from Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, states where President Trump insists election malpractices were legion. In doing that, he tweeted “It would confound reason if the presidential results of these states were to face objection while the congressional results of the same process escaped public scrutiny”.

In a move that mirrored exactly what is likely to happen on Wednesday during the joint session of Congress, bringing together Members of the Lower House and those of the Senate to count and certify the Electoral College Votes that would seal President-elect, Joe Biden’s win at the November 3 Presidential Election, Rep. Roy’s objection was voted down 371-2. The bipartisan strength shown in the vote to strike down the Texas Republican’s objection demonstrates the extent to which most elected officials on both sides of the political divide wish to close discussions regarding the November 3 poll.

In a speech soon after her reelection to a fourth term as House Speaker, Pelosi said the Chamber's “most urgent priority” will be defeating the coronavirus pandemic, noting that Congress “must do more to recognize” the workers on the frontlines of the crisis.

“They make our lives possible at the state and local level and will facilitate the distribution of the vaccine.  We owe them more…Many of our essential workers are from communities of colour and low-wealth communities which have been devastatingly and disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. They have been there for us, and we must be there for them,” she said, adding that Congress must pursue justice as it addresses the disparities the pandemic has exposed and challenged House members to live up to the pledge to provide justice for all.

As the House of Representatives closed business, the Senate convened at noon for the start of the 117th Congress. Vice President Mike Pence administered the oath of office to pairs of new and re-elected members. The Senate is beginning its new session with Republicans holding a slim majority. Whether or not the Republican Party retains control of the Upper House will be determined by the pair of runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday, January 5.