Sunday is the first official day of the 117th Congress of the United States, which means new members are sworn in, new rules are established (bye bye, proxy voting!), and votes take place on who will lead the Democratic and Republican Caucuses.
A vote is scheduled to take place today to determine who will be the next Speaker of the House. Because Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has been in a position of power for a long time, it is assumed that she will remain speaker. Some progressive members, like "The Squad" – which is comprised of Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) – have all taken issue with Pelosi and her leadership (or lack thereof).
Before the scheduled vote, Pelosi sent a "welcome letter" to every Democratic member in the House of Representatives. In it, she – in so many words – tells her caucus they better vote for her to "show a united Democratic Caucus." At the end of the letter she also mentioned the first serious act of the new Congress: whether or not to certify the Electoral College results later this week, a clear hint that members must be present. After all, Republicans in the House and Senate have made clear they are going to challenge the results.
Dear Democratic Colleague,
Congratulations on your swearing-in to the 117th Congress of the United States!
As we are all sworn in today, we accept a responsibility as daunting and as demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced.
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: 350,000 tragic deaths, over 20 million infections, millions without jobs – a toll almost beyond comprehension. Thank you for your generosity of spirit and patriotism to take on this challenge For The People.
As we go into session today, I do so full of pride to be nominated by our Democratic Caucus to be Speaker of the House. I am enormously grateful for the trust that Members have placed in me. I am confident that the Speaker's election today will show a united Democratic Caucus ready to meet the challenges ahead, and that we are prepared to set our country on a new course, starting with the Electoral College meeting on Wednesday.
Again, thank you for your patriotism and friendship. Congratulations and best wishes.
It is no surprise that Nancy is worried about how her caucus will go. She has spent the last two years fighting with the progressive wing of her party. That fringe element has grown and the moderate Democrats are now far and few. Whether or not they will fall in line or challenge another Pelosi speakership are yet to be seen.
Some have said there is a potential for a Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). The idea is that not enough Democratic members will show up for in-person voting to pull off a win for the speaker. Proxy voting is out the window on this one because those rules were established in the last Congress. Democrats have a very narrow margin over Republicans. Assuming every member of the GOP shows up and a few Democrats are missing, the Democrats' margin would shrink, meaning McCarthy could pull off a win. Only time will tell.