If Congress doesn't move by tonight, the government shuts down-- or, as the Washington Post's Mike DeBonis and Jeff Stein put it, "the 116th Congress started with a government shutdown, and it’s ending with the institution completely paralyzed by its efforts to put in place policies to help Americans rebound from the coronavirus. The same set of policies have been bedeviling the leadership-- self-described dealmakers all-- for more than six months."
And in the midst of this... a speaker's election in 3 weeks (first Sunday of January). Everyone who wants to vote has to be there-- no voting-from-home on this one. This morning Ted Lieu, who has been working remotely because of a medical condition, told me he'll be in DC for the Electoral College certification, the speaker's vote and the swearing in. In a mask. There are 222 Democrats and 212 Republicans-- and one uncalled race (Blue Dog scum Anthony Brindisi v Trumpist psychopath Claudia Tenney, neither of whom would vote for Pelosi). According to House rules, Pelosi must win a majority of votes cast "for a person by name" of the members who are in attendance and voting. So Pelosi can afford to allow a handful of her members to vote "present," but a vote for anyone else is-- something right-wing Democrats have done in the past-- is a problem.
This morning, Politico's Melanie Zanona took a look at the math and the hurdles Pelosi faces. "A single Democrat forced to stay home because of illness or quarantine," she wrote, "could upset Pelosi’s careful balancing act. (The Capitol physician has even advised that members should be summoned back to Washington as early as Dec. 27 to ensure the vote goes as planned on Jan. 3.) And Pelosi and her allies have been doing some leg work to win over one-time defectors. In some cases, Obama alumni, big donors and labor leaders have been dispatched to squeeze the undecideds."
So far, the math is looking good for Pelosi. Out of the 10 Democratic defectors who will be seated in January, Pelosi has already flipped several: Reps. Jim Cooper (Blue Dog-TN), Jason Crow (New Dem-CO) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (rabid Blue Dog-OR). At least three Dems are expected to vote “no”-- Reps. Conor Lamb (coward-PA), Jared Golden (coward and Blue Dog-ME) and Abigail Spanberger (deranged coward Blue Dog-VA). And Rep. Elissa Slotkin (coward and New Dem-MI) will vote present. That leaves three undecided: Reps. Mikie Sherrill (Blue Dog-NJ), Kathleen Rice (universally hated New Dem-NY) and Ron Kind (New Dem-WI).
A New York state Democrat has a seat on the all important House Energy and Commerce Committee-- and that seat is open. Every single New York Democrat has endorsed AOC for the seat. Many also endorsed Kathleen Rice-- but not all of them. Ultimately, it is Pelosi herself who will make the decision of which woman gets onto the super-powerful committee, AOC, who will bring new and powerful ideas and a ton of potential or Rice, who will bring her mean-spirited conservatism. There is no doubt that she is holding her speaker vote out in the hope of making a deal that would put her on the committee instead of AOC.
It's an example of how conservatives are always willing to use their clout to get what they want. Progressives... not so much. Progressives could easily say to Pelosi, 'no Medicare-for-All vote, no speakership for you' or, like several said they would do but now won't, 'give up PayGo or give up the speaker's chair.' That's not going to happen; there is no Freedom Caucus on the left. It isn't in progressives' DNA. Blue Dogs and New Dems, on the other hand... God only knows what promises she's making them in return for their votes. It will certainly be interesting to see whether AOC gets on the Energy and Commerce Committee-- or if Pelosi trades that away to Rice.