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Democrats Nominate Nancy Pelosi As Next House Speaker


Nancy Pelosi is on her way to another turn as speaker of the house. Earlier today, 203 Democrats voted to make her their party's nominee to be the top leader in the House and third in line for the presidency. Now, this does not mean Pelosi is totally in the clear. More than two dozen Democrats voted against her, but Pelosi says she is not worried.


NANCY PELOSI: Are there dissenters? Yes. But I expect to have a powerful vote as we go forward.

CHANG: NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell has been following all of this leadership drama in the House, and she's here with us now.

Hey, Kelsey.


CHANG: So how strong of a display was this really? I mean, does this nomination mean she is going to get the speakership?

SNELL: Well, this was a pretty strong vote. But no, it's not all over. There is a big vote on the House floor in January. It's one of the very first things that they do when they come back. After all the new members are sworn in, all the new members of Congress will sit down on the House floor and vote for who they want for speaker. Now, Pelosi came out and talked to reporters before they were even done counting the votes inside of that closed-door Dem caucus. And she was in a pretty celebratory mood, and it's not just about being speaker. It was kind of like a second victory lap for the election. Here's what she said.


PELOSI: Let us just take a moment to dwell on the fact that we are in the majority - majority, majority, majority.


SNELL: Those claps that you're hearing in the background there are some of her members who were just huddled around her to celebrate the moment. And she has a reason to be excited. The AP reversed a call just the other day, and now it looks like Democrats might still pick up another seat in California.

CHANG: Majority, majority, majority - that said, Pelosi did have 32 people vote against her today. I mean, that's more than enough to keep her from winning in January. Right? But you say she sounds confident. She has sounded that way since Election Day. Why should she be confident going into the floor vote in January?

SNELL: So the one thing she should be concerned about is that she has a majority of her party but not enough to get a majority of the whole House. She needs 218 votes. And like we said already, she had 203 today. But it's really not all that uncommon for people to vote against a speaker nominee in the secret ballot process when it's just an election within their own party. And then by the time they get to the House floor, they flip and vote for the person from their party.

One conservative Democrat and I were talking. And he said to me that it's one thing to say you'd like an alternative to Pelosi, but it's something completely different when they're being asked to publicly choose between her and a Republican on the House floor. And that's what it would be in January.

CHANG: Yeah, yeah.

SNELL: And you can also compare this to the last time Democrats voted for Pelosi as minority leader back in 2016. Republicans used her as a weapon in that election, too. And Democrats had just lost seats in the House, but 63 people voted against her then. And she's cut that opposition by more than 20.

CHANG: But her detractors are saying that they're confident that they can block her still. I mean, do they even have another candidate or any clear path for how they'll get that done?

SNELL: Yeah - no, they don't have a new candidate, and they don't really have a path. But what they're saying is the only way to get a leadership change is to fight. And Kathleen Rice, who is one of the people who's been leading this charge, came out and talked to reporters. And she said this is something that Pelosi herself would want them to do.


KATHLEEN RICE: Nancy Pelosi said it herself: power is not given to you. You have to take it. And that's what this effort is all about. And these are not easy positions to be in, but we have to have this conversation.

SNELL: And they are having this conversation, but it doesn't seem to really be going anywhere right now.

CHANG: All right. So really quickly - one of the things Pelosi has promised along the way is that she's going to make room for new, younger voices. Has she followed through on that promise yet?

SNELL: Well, she did. She has promoted some newer people, like Hakeem Jeffries who'll be the No. 5 for Democrats. He's 48 and from Brooklyn and Queens. But it is important to say that, at the end of the day, the top three people will still be the same top three people that have been representing Democrats for years.

CHANG: Right.

SNELL: So there will be some room for fresh faces but not a lot of them.

CHANG: That's NPR congressional reporter Kelsey Snell.

Thanks, Kelsey.

SNELL: Thank you.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In this story, we incorrectly say the speaker of the House is third in the line of succession to the presidency. The speaker is second in line after the vice president.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: November 29, 2018 at 12:00 AM EST
In this story, we incorrectly say the speaker of the House is third in the line of succession to the presidency. The speaker is second in line after the vice president.
Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.