According to a report, Democrats are panicking, fearful that the COVID-19 pandemic could prevent Nancy Pelosi from being re-elected as House speaker despite Democrats holding a majority in the chamber.
Is this really possible? Well, let’s see.
While House members can vote by proxy due to emergency rules adopted in May to protect members from getting and spreading COVID-19, but, as The Hill reports, “the proxy-voting rule expires with the new Congress, requiring lawmakers to be in the Capitol in person if they want to participate in the Jan. 3 floor vote for Speaker.”
New rules governing the 117th Congress happen after the vote for the speaker.
House Democrats have been taking advantage of this proxy-voting rule in significant numbers. On December 18, nearly 90 Democrats voted by proxy.
This means that candidates for speaker of the House must receive a majority of the votes cast in person to be elected speaker. Democrats already have a thin majority of 222 seats following the 2020 election, and three moderate Democrats say they don’t intend to vote for Pelosi when the vote takes place on January 3. In addition, several Democrats have health conditions that have kept them from the Capitol in 2020. It would only take a small number of Democrats being exposed to COVID-19 prior to the vote for Pelosi to potentially be in trouble.
“COVID is a wild card,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.). “If we have sick members who cannot come back, and we only have a four-vote majority, it throws our entire advent of the 117th Congress in peril — a smooth advent.”
Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) believes it’s a real possibility that Republicans could outnumber Democrats for the vote, and the top Republican in the House, Kevin McCarthy, could be elected speaker.
“Let’s say, just theoretically, we had six or eight people out with COVID and the Republicans have none. They probably could elect McCarthy,” Yarmuth told The Hill.