Speaker Nacy Pelosi has been elected speaker by a narrow margin in a US House of Representatives with a diminished Democratic Party majority.
While she was elected with 216 votes in a 435-member House on Sunday, the fate of the Senate hung in the balance with its future to be decided on Tuesday when Georgia will elect its two Senators.
The Democratic Party’s strength in the House had fallen by 13 seats from 235 seats to 222, despite the party’s presidential candidate Joe Biden decisively defeating Republican President Donald Trump.
Although there had been murmurings of dissent against the 80-year-old Pelosi, she managed to contain the defections, but none of the dissenters voted for the Republican candidate Kevin McCarthy, who won the vote of all his party members and will remain the House Minority Leader.
Dramatically in a Covid-19 ravaged nation, several members who are quarantined voted from specially constructed booths with plastic protection and not on the floor of the House chamber.
One newly-elected Representative Luke Letlow, a Republican, has died of Covid-19.
In the 100-member Senate, Republicans have 50 seats, while Democrats have 48. If the Democrats win the two Georgia seats, they will control the Senate as Kamala Harris, who will be the Vice President, will have the deciding vote as the chair.
Pelosi, who was the target of repeated attacks by Trump, has outmanoeuvred him several times, notably in the standoff over the budget for last year when she made him back down after a government shutdown. She effectively worked as a powerful antidote to Trump’s politics in several areas.
Given the party’s loss of 13 seats in last year’s election, she will now have to keep the party together behind the centrist Biden as the party’s left and progressive flanks assert themselves ideologically.
This will likely by the last term for Pelosi, who is the first woman to hold the speakership and is the most powerful woman in US politics.
Representatives are elected to only two-year terms and the next round of elections will take place next year.