WASHINGTON – House Democrats nominated Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday to be the speaker who guides them again next year as Joe Biden becomes president, and she quickly seemed to suggest these would be her final two years in the leadership post.
The California Democrat, the first woman to be speaker, was nominated by acclamation as the party's lawmakers used a pandemic-induced virtual meeting to pick their leaders. Pelosi already has served six years in the job, but the next two loom as her toughest.
After unexpectedly losing at least 10 incumbents in this month's elections, Democrats will have about a 222-213 majority, the tightest margin in two decades. That prospect has demoralized many Democrats and ignited blame-trading between moderates and progressives over why they flopped on Election Day.
In addition, Biden and Congress will confront an uncontrolled coronavirus pandemic, a virus-stifled economy and jagged divisions among voters who largely either idolize or detest outgoing President Donald Trump. And there's anxiety already among Democrats looking ahead to 2022 and the midterm elections, which historically are punishing for the party that controls the White House.
Against that backdrop, many House Democrats have for years impatiently insisted it's time for fresh leadership. Pelosi and her top two lieutenants, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, have served in their positions together for over a dozen years and each is age 80 or older.
Pelosi called for unity when she addressed her colleagues Wednesday after winning the nomination. “The theme, I think, of what we do next has to be about justice” in the economy, health care and policing, she said, according to a transcript released by her office.
When a reporter asked Pelosi later whether the next two years would be her last as speaker, it was little surprise that she mentioned a commitment she made in 2018. Scrambling to win enough votes to become speaker, she said then that she would agree to limit her term to four more years.
“I can’t wait to be working with Joe Biden and preparing us for our transition into the future," she said Wednesday. “So I don’t want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement."