HOUSE SPEAKER HAS THIN MAJORITY THAT IS FARTHER LEFT
Alaska Congressman Don Young swore in the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Thursday.
This is Pelosi’s second time as Speaker in her long career, and the duty to swear her in fell to a congressional warhorse who has served even longer than her. Pelosi was first elected in 1987, and Young has served since 1973. The role of swearing in the Speaker falls to the longest-serving member of Congress, known as the Dean of the House.
Young made quick work of the ceremony, which lasted just under one minute.
The 78-year-old lawmaker from San Francisco had the support of 220 Democrats who voted for her leadership. Fifteen Democrats, however, did not support her leading their caucus, voting “present” rather than in the affirmative. She needed 216 votes to win, and the defections were unusually high for a Speaker, leaving Pelosi with a thin four-vote margin of support and a caucus that is moving farther to the left.
Pelosi and Young are on opposite sides of the political aisle, but both have been in office for decades and have respect for each other and the institution. They both are fierce advocates for their positions but have been able to put personal politics aside to get the job done.
Pelosi came to Young when he was chair of House Resources Committee to ask for his help in getting the Presidio U.S. Army fort converted to a national park, which he agreed to champion for her in his committee. When Young became Dean of the House, Pelosi expressed her thanks for that effort during her floor speech recognizing his new role.
“Despite our differences, it is clear that Don cares deeply about our nation. Don serves because, in his words, he’s ‘enthusiastic about meeting people and trying to solve their problems.’ As a former teacher, he’s an advocate for quality education for all. As a former U.S. Army tank operator, he believes in ensuring that service members, families and veterans have the care they have earned. And in honor of his late, beloved wife Lu Young, he’s been a champion for the Native children of Alaska,” she said last year.
Ten of the new Democrat freshmen and five others defected from supporting Pelosi, who was sworn in along with all other Congress members on the 13th day of the federal government shutdown.
But among Pelosi’s caucus are members of a far-left faction of the House, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, both of whom are members of the Democratic Socialists of America, and who support expanding Medicare and free public college for all.
Tlaib, the the first Palestinian-American congresswoman, told a cheering crowd that “we’re going to go in there and we’re going to impeach the motherfucker,” referring crudely to President Donald Trump. You can see her remarks here:
But Pelosi told the media yesterday that she isn’t interested in impeachment. As for indictment, she said it was “open to discussion,” and that she disagrees with the Justice Department opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted, although she did not specify which act by Trump was indictable.
She said on Thursday that the Democrats’ caucus would reject any funding for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt? We’re not doing a wall,” she said.
Pelosi has already had to acquiesce to the far-left freshmen of Congress, who have been taking their cues from left-leaning lawmakers like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who has announced she is running for president.
Even the shutdown of the federal government may not have been resolved because Pelosi was not able to make a deal with President Trump before the vote on her speakership, or it may have led to some of her supporters jumping ship.
Her predecessor, former Congressman Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, also was hobbled when he was Speaker by the disparate political views in the Republican Party, especially the harder-right conservatives and Freedom Caucus members that influenced the House Republican Caucus starting in 2014.
Ryan won his speakership with 236 votes over Pelosi’s 184 votes in October of 2015. Pelosi’s current four-vote margin of victory leaves her with a more tenuous position than Ryan had, or that former Speaker John Boehner had before him.