Rep. Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, retained the House speaker’s gavel Sunday, pulling off a high-wire balancing act by getting a slim majority in the closely-divided chamber.
It was the first test for her party’s new dynamic — one of the thinnest majorities to control the floor of the House in decades.
Mrs. Pelosi secured at least 216 votes, just more than enough to lock down the majority.
She was sworn in by Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican and the longest-serving member of the House, who pleaded with her to spearhead more bipartisanship on Capitol Hill.
“I’ve been in this body longer than anyone else. I don’t like what I see. It’s time we hold hands and talk to one another,” Mr. Young said, earning applause from the members seated in the chamber. “You will be Speaker of the House, not of a party.”
He asked her that when governing gets contentious, “Let’s sit down and have a drink.”
While Mrs. Pelosi hailed the diversity of the new Congress, she also noted the somber reality of the country still battling the coronavirus pandemic and said relief legislation will be a top priority.
“On the day of our swearing-in, there is a bipartisan church service, where we pray together for America. Until that is possible, let us pray personally: Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with us,” she said.
“We begin the new Congress during a time of extraordinary difficulty. Each of our communities has been drastically affected by the pandemic and economic crisis,” the California Democrat said.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was nominated by his party, handed the gavel to Mrs. Pelosi with a blistering criticism for her leadership.
He accused Democrats of ignoring the needs of the public while highlighting the proxy voting system and partisan gridlock that delayed a coronavirus relief deal.
It is Mrs. Pelosi’s fourth term as speaker, and likely her last as the 80-year-old Democrat promised her members last term that she would not serve more than four years in the position.
While more moderate Democrats waned in their support for Mrs. Pelosi, she locked down support from her party’s progressive wing.
Newly elected Reps. Cori Bush of Missouri and Jamaal Bowman of New York were both noncommittal last week about their support for the speaker ahead of the vote, but ended up casting their votes for Mrs. Pelosi.
Two of her members — Reps. Jared Golden of Maine and Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania — voted against Mrs. Pelosi, nominating others in her stead.
Meanwhile, three Democrats voted “present,” effectively removing themselves from the count: Reps. Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, and Abigail Spanberger of Virginia.
Along with the establishment wing of her party, Mrs. Pelosi also secured support from original ‘Squad’ members Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, and Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts.
“You know we are just … [an] extremely slim amount of votes away from risking the speakership to the Republican Party and this is — it’s bigger than any one of us,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez told reporters.
Mr. McCarthy did not lose a single Republican member, earning 209 votes.
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