Pelosi Narrowly Wins Fourth Term as House Speaker in 216-209 Vote

Posted on 01/03/2021 4:05 PM

New Congress in place as Trump has controversial call with Georgia gov’t official


Washington Focus


The House and Senate met at noon ET Sunday, but many of the traditions were modified and some events were canceled due to safety precautions amid the pandemic. Lawmakers were sworn in and voting for House Speaker came via small groups. Two newly elected House Republicans — David G. Valadao of California and Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida — tested positive for the coronavirus and missed the swearing in.


     Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 80, was re-reelected Speaker by a narrow margin, her fourth term as the head of the House and likely her last two-year term in the top post. She will lead a razor-thin Democratic majority in the House with Democrats controlling 222 seats to the GOP’s 211 with two vacancies (one race in New York is still in dispute, and a seat in Louisiana is vacant because Republican Rep.-elect Luke Letlow died on Tuesday from complications of Covid-19). Several Democratic lawmakers refused to vote for Pelosi, but she managed to secure a majority and prevail over Republican Kevin McCarthy of California by a vote of 216-209. McCarthy will serve as minority leader for the next two years. Every Republican voted for McCarthy. Democratic Reps. Abigail Spangerger of Virginia, Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey, and Elissa Slotkin of Michigan voted "present." Rep. Jared Golden, a Maine Democrat, also declined to vote for Pelosi. Golden voted to elect Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, to serve as Speaker. Democrat Conor Lamb of Pennsylvania rejected Pelosi and instead voted for Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York to become Speaker. Liberals, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and newly elected Cori Bush of Missouri, stuck with Pelosi despite pressure from the left to reject her for a more progressive leader.


     At least 118 women will serve in the U.S. House, beating the previous record of 102 set in 2019. Of those, 29 are Republican, breaking the previous GOP record of 25 set in 2006, according to an analysis by the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University (link). Meanwhile, retired Rear Adm. Margaret G. Kibben was announced as Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s choice to be the next House chaplain, replacing the retiring Rev. Patrick J. Conroy. Kibben will be the first female chaplain for either chamber. Kibben was the first woman to serve as chief of Navy chaplains, serving from 2014-2018 in that role, and was previously chaplain of the Marine Corps.


Rule changes and legislation. Later this week, the House will vote on the rules package for the 117th Congress (link), along with at least five pieces of legislation. House Democrats released their rules package on Friday, and plan to vote on the measure early this week.


     This year’s resolution (HRes 5) would eliminate the motion to recommit with instructions, a tool used by Republicans to propose language creating tough votes for some Democratic members. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) criticized the move, saying on Twitter that Democratic leadership was “invoking the nuclear option to silence the People’s voice.” Democrats counter that the procedural vote had become weaponized by the minority and that Republicans weren’t amending the bill in good faith because they often ended up still voting against the final bill. It would also exempt legislation dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change from budget rules including pay-as-you-go or PAYGO requirements. Proxy voting on the House floor, which was introduced during the pandemic, would be extended under the measure.


The Senate is set to agree not to release any new legislation until Jan. 21, the day after Biden’s inauguration.


The outcome of the Georgia special elections Tuesday will determine control of the U.S. Senate. The Democratic Party will need to win both runoff elections to gain control of the Senate; each race is expected to be extremely close. President-elect Joe Biden carried the state in November, and if Democrats win both races his party will control the Senate by the narrowest of margins, 50/50, giving him far more ability to drive the agenda in Congress than if Republicans hold the chamber.


     Background: In November, Sen. Dave Perdue (R-Ga.), 71, finished 88,000 votes ahead of his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, 33, but fell just short of a majority with 49.7% of the vote in a three-way race that included Libertarian Shane Hazel. A runoff was virtually assured in the special election for Sen. Kelly Loeffler's (R-Ga.) seat. Because she was running to complete her predecessor's unfinished term, state law requires a political free-for-all with multiple Republicans and Democrats sharing the ballot. Loeffler, 51, and Democratic candidate Raphael Warnock, 51, were the top finishers out of 20 candidates, with neither getting more than one-third of the vote.


     Georgia voters have been turning out in huge numbers despite the holidays and the pandemic. More than 2.8 million have voted early either in person or by mail — more than half of the 5 million total votes cast in Georgia in November. Heading into the final days, Perdue's campaign that he and his wife learned they had been in close contact with a staffer who tested positive for Covid-19 and the senator was in quarantine despite having tested negative.


The outgoing Senate on Jan. 1 voted to override President Trump’s veto of a $740.5 billion defense bill, with many Republicans joining Democrats to deliver a rejection to President Donald Trump in the final days of his presidency and for the first time pass into law legislation he had blocked. The National Defense Authorization Act is an annual measure that secures hazard-pay raises for troops and authorizes funds for aircraft, ships, nuclear weapons, and other national-security programs. Trump had threatened to veto this year’s bill before it passed Congress, but lawmakers had moved forward anyway, approving it with wide majorities. Trump criticized it for including measures that would strip military bases of names honoring Confederate military leaders and regulate troop withdrawals he has sought in Afghanistan and Germany. The White House also sought to repeal legal immunity social-media companies enjoy for users’ content as part of the bill, a push that lawmakers rebuffed. The Senate voted 81-13 to override the veto, exceeding the two-thirds supermajority required. The action follows the House’s 322-87, and the bill now becomes law.


The U.S. Congress will formally count votes from the Electoral College on Jan. 6. While some challenges to the process will emerge among Republican senators, it will not change the fate of President-elect Joe Biden. A coalition of 11 Republican senators announced Saturday it will challenge the outcome of the presidential election by voting to reject electors from some states when Congress meets to certify the Electoral College results that confirmed Biden won. The senators contend they are not trying to reverse the election results, but rather give voice to those who don’t believe it was conducted fairly.


     Washington Post: In an extraordinary hour-long call, Trump pressured Georgia secretary of state to recalculate vote. President Trump escalated his attempts to overturn the election results during an hourlong call Saturday with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, urging him to “find 11,780 votes” and repeating baseless conspiracy theories, according to the Washington Post (link), which obtained a recording of the call. The WaPo reported that Trump referenced the upcoming runoffs during the call and signaled he would bring up the allegations of election fraud during the Monday rally.


On Wednesday, the Economic Club of Washington, D.C. holds an event featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and National Institute of Health.


Economic Reports for the Week


Economic reports of note this week include Wednesday’s release of FOMC minutes from the mid-December policy meeting, and Friday’s Employment report.


Monday, Jan. 4
     • Census Bureau reports construction spending data for November. Economists forecast a 1% month-over-month increase, to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.45 trillion. Construction spending, much like the housing market, has rebounded strongly from pandemic-induced lows and currently stands just below the all-time peak of $1.44 trillion set in February of 2020.
     • Federal Reserve: Chicago Fed President Charles Evans speaks on a panel at the annual AEA meeting, held virtually. At the same meeting, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic discusses measuring the economic impacts of Covid-19, and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester speaks on increasing diversity in economics.

Tuesday, Jan. 5
     • Institute for Supply Management Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for December. Consensus estimate is for a 56.5 reading, a point lower than the November figure. The Manufacturing PMI has had six straight months of readings above the expansionary level of 50.
     • U.S. auto sales will rise 2.8% in the fourth quarter from the July-September period, according to market researcher Edmunds. But the results still are 5.7% below a year earlier, with Edmunds forecasting a 15% decline in sales for the full year.
     • World Bank releases its Global Economic Prospects report.
     • Federal Reserve: Chicago Fed President Charles Evans takes part in a virtual panel discussion during the annual AEA meeting. At the same meeting, New York Fed President John Williams chairs a panel on the monetary-fiscal nexus with ultra-low interest rates.
     • German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with regional leaders to discuss new pandemic measures.

Wednesday, Jan. 6
     • MBA Mortgage Applications
     • Federal Open Market Committee releases minutes from its mid-December monetary-policy meeting, when the central bank said large-scale purchases of government debt and mortgage securities would continue “until substantial further progress has been made” toward broader employment and inflation goals.
     • ADP National Employment Report for December. Expectations are for a gain of 200,000 in private-sector employment, after 307,000 jobs were added in November. The vast majority of gains in November came from the services sector, led by the leisure and hospitality industry’s 95,000.

Thursday, Jan. 7
     • Department of Labor reports continuing jobless claims, which are also known as insured unemployment, for the week ended Dec. 26. Unlike initial jobless claims, continuing claims have maintained their downward trend into December. For the first three weeks of last month, continuing claims averaged 5.3 million a week, down from a peak of 22 million in May.
     • ISM Services Purchasing Managers’ Index for December. Economists forecast a 54.7 reading, below November’s 55.9 figure.
     • Economists expect the U.S. trade deficit widened sharply in November as Americans picked up the pace of imports headed into the holiday season.
     • Fed Balance Sheet
     • Money Supply
     • Federal Reserve: St. Louis Fed President James Bullard participates in a virtual event hosted by the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans speaks at the Wisconsin Bankers Association forum. Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker joins a virtual event hosted by the Philadelphia Business Journal.

Friday, Jan. 8
     • Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report for December. Consensus estimate is for an increase of 114,000 in nonfarm payrolls, after a rise of 245,000 in November. The unemployment rate is expected to edge up from 6.7% to 6.8%. The economy has added back 12.4 million jobs since May, or just more than half of the 22.2 million jobs lost in March and April.   


Key USDA & international Ag & Energy Reports and Events 


Grain market bulls are watching the weather in South America and preparing for USDA’s Jan 12 update of supply and demand forecasts.


Monday, Jan. 4

     Ag reports and events:

     • Export Inspections
     • U.S. winter wheat conditions, cotton harvested
     • Cotton System
     • Fats & Oils
     • Grain Crushings
     • CFTC and ICE Commitments of Traders reports, delayed from Jan. 1, with data for week ended Tues., Dec. 29
     • EU weekly grain, oilseed import and export data
     • Holiday: Russia, New Zealand


     Energy reports and events:

     • OPEC+ alliance energy ministers hold monthly virtual gathering to decide whether to add as much as 500,000 barrels a day to production.

Tuesday, Jan. 5

     Ag reports and events:

     • State Stories
     • Purdue Agriculture Sentiment
     • Malaysia’s Jan. 1-5 palm oil export data
     • Virtual palm oil trade fair and seminar 2021, Jan. 5-7
     • Holiday: Russia


     Energy reports and events:

     • API weekly U.S. oil inventory report
     • Gulf Cooperation Council summit in Saudi Arabia; could lead to a resolution in the lingering dispute between Qatar and its neighbors in a row that has pushed Doha closer to Iran and frustrated the U.S.


Wednesday, Jan. 6

     Ag reports and events:

     • Broiler Hatchery

     • Dairy Products
     • China’s CNGOIC to publish soybean and corn reports
     • Holiday: Russia, Poland


     Energy reports and events:

     • EIA weekly U.S. oil inventory report

     • U.S. weekly ethanol inventories

     • Genscape weekly ARA crude inventory report

Thursday, Jan. 7

     Ag reports and events:

     • Weekly Export Sales

     • FAO World Food Price Index
     • Port of Rouen data on French grain exports
     • Holiday: Russia, Ghana, Egypt


     Energy reports and events:

     • EIA natural gas storage change

Friday, Jan. 8

     Ag reports and events:

     • CFTC Commitments of Traders weekly report

     • Peanut Prices

     • Livestock and Meat International Trade Data
     • Latest U.S. Agricultural Trade Data
     • U.S. Agricultural Trade Data Update
     • Trading of China’s hog futures to begin on Dalian Commodity Exchange
     * Holiday: Russia


     Energy reports and events:

     • Baker Hughes weekly U.S. oil/gas rig counts



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