Nancy Pelosi has been narrowly re-elected as speaker, giving her the reins of Democrats’ slender House majority as President-elect Joe Biden sets a challenging course of producing legislation to tackle the pandemic, revive the economy and address other party priorities.
The California Democrat, who has led her party in the House since 2003 and is the only woman to be speaker, had been widely expected to retain her post.
Ms Pelosi received 216 votes to 209 for Republican Kevin McCarthy, who again will be the chamber’s minority leader.
To gain her victory, Ms Pelosi had to overcome some Democratic grumbling about her longevity, a slim 222-211 edge over Republicans after November’s elections, and a handful of absences because of the coronavirus.
There were two vacancies in the 435-member House, and whatever happens Democrats will have the smallest House majority in two decades.
The new Congress convened on Sunday, just two days after lawmakers ended their contentious previous session and with Covid-19 guidelines requiring testing and face coverings for House members.
There was widespread mask-wearing and far fewer lawmakers and guests in the chamber than usual, an unimaginable tableau when the last Congress commenced two years ago, before the pandemic struck.