WASHINGTON — Nancy Pelosi returned to the role of House Speaker on Thursday, as Democrats took control of Congress in what is likely to be a new and powerful check on President Donald Trump.
She drew 220 votes, enough to claim the speakership, and hugged fellow members in the chamber amid cheers as the tally was announced. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) garnered 192 votes. Fifteen Democrats voted for someone else, as they had promised to seek new leadership in their campaigns.
Entertainer Tony Bennett, a longtime friend of Pelosi’s, was among the many guests and family members who packed into the House chamber to watch as she was elected to lead the new Congress. He sat in the front row of the House gallery, with his wife Susan and near Pelosi’s husband, Paul, members of the Pelosi family, and reality host Tim Gunn, who sat next to Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.
Pelosi served from 2007 to 2011, and led Democrats in the House for the past eight years. She will be second in line for the presidency, and is the first and only woman to serve as speaker.
During the roll call, Pelosi at times appeared anxious, and at others looked toward members and smiled as they cast their votes for her. She occasionally checked with Steny Hoyer, the incoming majority leader, as he kept a tally of votes.
The most immediate task for the House will be to vote on legislation to reopen the government. Democrats plan to vote on a plan to fund most of the government through the end of the year, and Homeland Security until early next month. But Trump has been steadfast that he will not sign such legislation as it does not contain funding for his new border wall.
The breakdown of the new House is 235 Democrats and 199 Republicans, with one vacancy, and 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents in the Senate.
In November, Democrats flipped 40 seats, including four in Orange County, to take control from Republicans. But Democrats lost two seats in the Senate.
In the House chamber, children and other family members were allowed on the floor, and some kids danced in the aisles and sat in member seats in the wait before the roll call vote on the speakership.
Katie Porter, one of the new Democrats representing an Orange County seat, sat between her kids, just behind Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Joseph Kennedy (D-Mass.). Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) stood in the aisle and gave his newborn daughter a gentle bounce back and forth. Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) held his twin daughters in his arms as stood up and cast his vote for Pelosi.
As Pelosi herself voted, for herself, her granddaughter held her hand and jumped up and down in excitement, drawing laughs in the chamber.
The casual nature of the proceedings was also reflected in one of the nomination speeches, by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), a new member of Democratic leadership, who finished his speech by saying, “House Democrats are down with NDP.” As the roll call began, Pelosi hugged Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), visiting from the other side of the Capitol.
The new Congress will be the most diverse ever — 126 women — representing almost a quarter of lawmakers. That includes 43 women of color in the House, as well as a slew of younger members. They include the youngest women elected, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Abby Finkenauer of Iowa.
The gains in diversity have been among Democrats, as the number of Republican women in the House declined by 10 seats, from 23 to 13. That was apparent just by the attire — one side of the chamber dominated by men in grayish and blue suits, and red ties; the other with a burst of Technicolor as female members wore suits and dresses in white, blue, purple, and fuchsia.
New senators were also sworn in on Thursday, including Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee in 2012, elected to the Senate from Utah, and Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat who flipped a Senate seat in Arizona. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was elected president pro tem, third in line for the presidency.