Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was elected speaker of the House on Sunday with 216 votes. Five Democratic representatives did not vote for her: Jared Golden (D-Maine), Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.), and Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.). Golden voted for Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Lamb voted for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). Sherrill, Slotkin, and Spanberger voted “present.” All 209 participating Republican representatives cast their votes for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
The speaker of the House is elected on the first day the new Congress convenes. If all 435 members vote, a candidate for speaker of the House must receive at least 218 votes to be elected. If not all members vote or some choose to vote “present,” a candidate must receive a majority of support from those participating in the election. Because 427 representatives voted for someone by name, 214 votes were required for the speaker to be elected.
Pelosi is the sixth speaker elected since 1912 (when the House grew to 435 members) without a majority of the full House membership. The previous speakers elected with fewer than 218 votes during this period were:
- “Champ” Clark, elected 1917 with 217 votes
- Frederick Gillett, elected 1923 with 215 votes
- Sam Rayburn, elected 1943 with 217 votes
- Newt Gingrich, elected 1997 with 216 votes
- John Boehner, elected 2015 with 216 votes.
Pelosi was selected as the Democratic nominee for speaker of the House by a voice vote on November 18, 2020. She was unopposed.
In 2019, Pelosi was elected speaker of the House with 220 votes. That year, 15 Democrats did not vote for her, including the five who did not vote for her in 2021. Five of the fifteen voted for her in 2021, three lost re-election in November 2020, Jeff Van Drew (R-N.J.) switched parties in December 2019, and the outcome of Anthony Brindisi’s race in New York’s 22nd Congressional District was unclear as of January 3.
Pelosi previously served as House speaker from 2007 to 2010 and became House minority leader after Democrats lost control of the House in the 2010 elections. Support for or opposition to Pelosi returning to the speakership was a major issue for Democratic candidates in the 2018 U.S. House elections.