Nancy Pelosi wins bid to lead Democrats in US House

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  • US Democrats have re-elected Nancy Pelosi as Speaker in the US Congress.
  • President-elect Joe Biden congratulated her.
  • Democrats have a reduced majority.

US Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday chose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to lead the party into the Joe Biden era and preside over their narrow House majority as the most powerful person in Congress.

The 80-year-old Pelosi - the highest-ranking woman in US congressional history and outgoing President Donald Trump's chief nemesis on Capitol Hill - ran unopposed for the top job.

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She was nominated in a virtual leadership election, the first of its kind as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm thrilled, I'm excited, and I can't wait to be working with the new president of the United States, Joe Biden and (vice president) Kamala Harris," Pelosi said.

In accepting the nomination she pledged to take action to help "crush" the Covid-19 crisis and prioritise achieving "justice" for Americans on the issues of health care, economic security, the courts and climate change.

'Fearless leader'

Biden called Pelosi to congratulate her and say "he looks forward to working with her and Democratic leadership in the House on a shared agenda to get Covid-19 under control and build our economy back better," his transition team said.

A formal House floor vote for the speakership occurs in January after the new congressional session begins, and shortly before Biden takes office as president.

She is widely expected to win.

Pelosi has led her caucus since 2003. Two years ago the veteran lawmaker representing San Francisco agreed to serve in the post through 2022 at most, a move that likely cleared the way for her easy re-nomination.

The House Democratic caucus, in a tweet, hailed the nomination of their "fearless leader".

But tensions have simmered.

In the 3 November election, Democrats fell well short of their stated aim to expand their 233 - 202 majority, failing to oust a single Republican incumbent and losing at least 10 seats.

Some close races were still being counted, but when the dust settles Pelosi will find she is leading a shrunken majority.

Asked on Wednesday about whether she would abide by her commitment to step down by late 2022, she said her earlier remarks stand.

"I don't want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement," Pelosi said.

Calls for new blood

While there have been calls within the ranks for new blood atop the ideologically fractured conference, the three chief positions went once again to the trio of now-octogenarians led by Pelosi.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 81, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, 80, the highest ranking black member, were also re-elected.

The top contested race was for assistant speaker, the number four party position, and it showcased potential members of a new generation of Democratic leaders.

Congresswoman Katherine Clark, 57 and currently the vice chair of the Democratic caucus, prevailed over the more progressive Democrat David Cicilline, 59, the first openly gay member of House leadership.

Republicans have painted their Democratic rivals as "radical" leftists eager to foist "socialism" on America, a message they reiterated on Tuesday after their own House vote re-elected party leadership including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

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