Nancy Pelosi will be the speaker of the House of Representatives for a fourth time, following Sunday’s Congressional vote. She was elected with a razor-thin margin: 216 voted for her, while 209 members voted against and 3 voted present.
Pelosi, a Democrat who represents California’s 12th Congressional District, was first elected speaker in 2007, and remains the first and only woman to hold the role. She has indicated that this will be her last time serving as speaker.
At 80, she is now also the oldest speaker, a position that puts her third in line for the presidency. Between Pelosi and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, also from California, this year will mark the first time in the nation’s history that the first two people in the line of presidential succession are women.
Pelosi faced little meaningful challenge in her speaker bid. But she’ll navigate a difficult role this year; Democrats lost at least nine seats in this year’s Congressional election. They hold 222 seats in the House of Representatives — only four more than needed for a majority, and still a larger number of members than voted for Pelosi.
Meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden has selected three Congressional Democrats to join his administration. Those would require special elections to fill those seats. All are likely to elect Democrats, but in the period between those members leaving Congress and new officials replacing them, Pelosi will have an even tighter majority.
As speaker, Pelosi will continue to tackle the nation’s response to both the coronavirus pandemic and the cratering economy — historic issues on which Biden has vowed to work with Congress.
Still, it’s unclear how much meaningful legislation the speaker will be able to advance. Tuesday’s Georgia special Senate elections — which will determine whether Democrats have a majority in the upper chamber as well, or if Republicans will retain it — remain a coin-toss. If Republicans hold on to the Senate, that would likely limit the potential for the larger relief bills and packages Pelosi has backed.