Nancy Pelosi has been re-elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives for her fourth term, with a narrower Democratic majority in the chamber and challenges ahead.
“As speaker of the House, it is my great honour to preside over this sacred ritual of renewal, as we gather under the dome of this temple of democracy to begin the 117th Congress,” Pelosi said Sunday after her election.
The Democrat from California surpassed the necessary majority of votes, with two Democrats voting for other candidates and three more voting present.
Pelosi, who has led her party in the House since 2003 and is the only woman to be speaker, received 216 votes, with two Democrats voting for other candidates and three others voting present. A few members were unable to vote because they had tested positive for the coronavirus or had other health problems.
After losing multiple congressional races in the November election, Democrats hold a narrow majority in the US House of Representatives in the new 117th Congress, with 222 Democrats to 211 Republicans.
Before swearing in Pelosi, Dean of the House, Representative Don Young, an Alaska Republican, called for unity.
“I’ll be honest, I do not like what I see. It’s time we hold hands and talk to one another,” he said, receiving a standing ovation from both sides of the aisle.
“You will be the Speaker of the House — not of the party,” he added, addressing Pelosi.
Pelosi welcomed the new Congress into the session, emphasizing the importance of the lawmakers’ role as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
“As we are sworn in today, we accept a responsibility as daunting and demanding as any that previous generations of leadership have faced,” she said.
“Each of our communities has been drastically affected by the pandemic and economic crisis: 350,000 tragic deaths, each one a sadness that we carry in our hearts; over 20 million infections; millions without jobs – a toll almost beyond comprehension,” she added.
Pelosi also paid tribute in her speech to Elijah Cummings and John Lewis, two representatives with years of service who championed civil rights, who died in 2019 and 2020, respectively, and to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the U.S. Supreme Court justice, a legal and feminist icon, who also died in 2020.