As if 2020 hasn’t already been the most bizarre year for politics in modern American history, a new plot twist is developing that could mean a massive and unwelcome change for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
According to The Hill, COVID-19 could spell trouble for Pelosi’s path to retaining the speakership. In fact, if the disease finds its way into the Democratic caucus, it could leave an opening for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to take the top job.
What’s going on?
They’re calling it a wild card, the potential series of events that could prevent Pelosi from otherwise easily winning the speakership for the upcoming new Congress. It’s all thanks to none other than the COVID-19 pandemic, which could prove to make for the most buzzworthy speaker vote in history.
At the crux of the issue is that, according to House rules, a lawmaker must be physically present in the lower chamber in order to cast a valid vote for the speakership, unlike votes on bills and other matters that can be cast virtually amid concerns over the coronavirus.
Pelosi will already be working with one of the slimmest Democratic majorities in the House in a very long time, given the number of blue seats that were flipped red in the 2020 election. What’s more, she is facing a number of possible defections among her caucus.
This combination creates a perfect storm wherein not only is Pelosi struggling to garner support from fellow Democrats, but COVID-19 quarantines and diagnoses could take some of the Dems who do back her off of the House floor on Jan. 3, when voting for the speakership takes place.
If Pelosi doesn’t have enough physical support on the floor come voting day, she could very well lose the speakership, paving the way for McCarthy to swoop in and claim the coveted gavel, The Hill notes.
How could he win?
It’s a potential convergence of events that Democrats seem to be quite concerned about. “Let’s say, just theoretically, we had six or eight people out with COVID and the Republicans have none. They probably could elect McCarthy,” Democrat Rep. John Yarmuth (KY) said, according to The Hill.
Other House Dems expressed worry over the number of lawmakers who traveled to visit family for Christmas.
“Obviously, the concern is that with 435 people going all over the country, it’s hard to imagine that not one of us will have the virus on Jan. 3,” an unnamed Democrat member of Congress told The Hill.
“We’re in a health care crisis, right? No one can get sick. That’s the X-factor here,” another Democrat lawmaker told the outlet. “We need everyone to be healthy… That’s the big fear.”
If this perfect storm actually materializes, and McCarthy is elected as the speaker of the House in January, Congress will ultimately experience a level of chaos that this country has never seen before. Let the games begin.