Election season has come and gone, but the work is only beginning for this newly elected Congress.
Because the majority party has shifted in the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrats are tasked with finding the next Speaker of the House.
Following the election, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was the clear frontrunner for this position, having served as speaker previously from 2007-2011.
However, a sentiment of reluctance and discontent surrounds Pelosi’s promotion to speaker. Members of the Democrat party do not seem overall excited about her return.
“A lot of it has to do with a desire for new leadership,” said junior political science major Thomas Pedrotti. He also is the president of UD College Democrats. “Congresswoman Pelosi has been leading the House Democrats for a long time, and many are ready to see a fresh, young face take over. A lot of Democrats grew weary of Pelosi’s leadership during the eight years that Republicans dominated in the House.”
Whispers that Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) would challenge Pelosi circulated for several days. However, according to the New York Times, Fudge fully supports Pelosi as speaker.
Sixteen House Democrats also signed a letter opposing Pelosi as speaker, including four incoming freshmen lawmakers. Per a report from The Hill, signatories of the letter do not think Pelosi could provide the “real change in the status quo” they promised their constituents.
House Democrats nominated Pelosi to be the next Speaker of the House on Nov. 28. According to NPR, the House Democrat Caucus vote was 203 for Pelosi, 32 in opposition, three blank ballots and one absent member. The full House of Representatives will vote for speaker on Jan. 3.
Moving forward, Pelosi will have her work cut out for her. She needs to bring a divided Democrat party together and show those who opposed her that she will truly listen to progressives.
Pedrotti offered steps she could take to prove she is committed to change.
“Giving more leadership roles to the younger, progressive Democrats in Congress would go a long way towards building support for Pelosi as Speaker,” he said. “New voices need to be heard.”
A major criticism of the Democrat party is that it does not have a clear message or unifying theme coming from its leaders. Many feel the party is still collecting itself after Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 presidential election. Pelosi will take a role in getting the party back on track, but it will require help from younger legislators.
“Congresswoman Pelosi is a genius strategist and politician, but she is going to have to listen to new, progressive voices such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in order to better promote Democratic policies of inclusivity and prosperity for all,” Pedrotti suggested.
The Speaker of the House also is primarily responsible for setting the agenda of issues to be covered during the congressional session. During her previous term as speaker, Pelosi pushed heavily for environmental laws. Pedrotti expects to see a similar trend in this next term.
“I truly hope that Democrats will use their control of the House to push for environmentalist policies and protections for everyday Americans,” he said. “I also think Democrats will attempt to address the way that immigrants and asylum seekers are treated, especially at the southern border.”
Pedrotti pointed out that Democrat leadership will most likely open several investigations related to President Donald Trump’s executive actions. He reasons these will take place in order to “check President Trump’s power and hold him accountable to the American people.”
The next congressional session is crucial for the Democrats.
“Democrats need experienced leadership in order to navigate the difficult waters of controlling one half of one branch of government,” Pedrotti said. “Pelosi led House Democrats to victory in November, and I am confident that she will to continue fighting for progressive values across the country.”
Photo courtesy of Huffington Post.