Republican leaders, gloating at flipping several House seats, took jabs at Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Wednesday for her shrinking majority and cast doubt on her ability to win enough votes to become House speaker again.
"I mean Nancy Pelosi doesn't even have a majority where she can be elected speaker again," Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Wednesday. "Whoever would have guessed that it'd be possible that Nancy Pelosi might not be the speaker?"
Democrats, backed by the consensus of election forecasters, went into Tuesday expecting to expand their majority in the House by flipping more districts that President Trump carried in 2016. Instead of picking up 10 or so new seats, Democrats lost races in places like Florida, Minnesota and Oklahoma and shrunk their overall numbers.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the erosion of the Democratic majority could spell trouble for Pelosi getting enough votes to be reelected speaker and predicted she'll struggle to get her agenda passed.
“I know the vote on the floor is difficult for Speaker. I know there was a number of people who did not vote for her last time," McCarthy said Wednesday, alluding to Democratic defectors two years ago. "And as our numbers continue to grow, I think at the end of the day, no matter where we end up, we'll be able to have a very big say, or even run the floor when it comes to policy."
The House voice vote for speaker requires a majority. Each Republican typically yells out the name of their party leader -- in this case McCarthy -- and Democrats announce their vote for Pelosi. With the numbers on their side, the party in power winning the vote is almost a foregone conclusion.
Pelosi has struck deals and maneuvered to squash internal challenges to her leadership before. She overcame defectors in the past, including those from moderate Democrats who had pledged to vote against her if elected. In 2019, there were 15 Democrats who didn't support her, but she could afford the losses with a bigger majority.
With ballots still being counted, it's unclear how slim the Democrats' majority will be heading into January.
Pelosi on Wednesday expressed confidence Joe Biden will be president once the votes are counted and said in a letter to Democratic colleagues that the House is ready to work with a Biden Administration on lowering healthcare costs, delivering bigger paychecks through green infrastructure and a cleaner government.
Pelosi didn't directly address her losses in the letter aside from calling the election "challenging."
Behind the scenes, Democrats were still coming to terms with the surprise setbacks and holding out hope that outstanding races would fall in their favor.
They took aim at Republicans for trying to meddle in their leadership elections.
"House Republicans gloating about being in the minority is a great example of why they remain in the minority," one senior aide told Fox News.
A second Democratic aide chalked up McCarthy's comments to sour grapes and said Pelosi would prevail.
"The last person to know anything about the dynamics in our caucus is McCarthy, who today held a press conference to concede he wouldn’t be speaker yet again," a senior Democratic aide told Fox News. "Members will stick with who brought them to the majority in the first place. The floor vote is a choice between Pelosi and McCarthy – an easy one for Democrats."
For Pelosi to lose a speakership she'd need a viable Democratic challenger and in 2019 no one was willing to step up.
At least two moderate Democrats were actively reaching out to their colleagues Wednesday to back one of Pelosi's top lieutenants, House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., for speaker, The Hill reported.
But a spokesperson for Jeffries quickly shut down the suggestion and told Fox News the Brooklyn Democrat is running again to be chairman of the Democratic caucus.
Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who unsuccessfully ran against Pelosi for Democratic leader in 2016, said Wednesday he's not interested in launching another challenge to the California Democrat. He didn't want to speculate on whether Pelosi has the votes.
"I have enough scar tissue from leadership races to last me a lifetime," Ryan told Fox News.
Ryan is hopeful that a Joe Biden win as president can rebrand the Democratic Party as one that focuses on delivering economic gains to working people, with expanding energy jobs, boosting the electric vehicle market, and building battery plants and more.
"We're going to have a real opportunity to rebrand the party in Scranton, Pennsylvania, as opposed to the Ivy Leagues and the coasts," Ryan said, referencing Biden's childhood hometown. "That's going to mean the world to a lot of our people running in two years and four years on what the party looks like moving forward."