House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy explained on Sunday why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi may lose her fight to retain the speakership — despite Democrats likely retaining their majority in the House.
What's the background?
Down-ballot Republicans saw wide success on Election Day. So far, Republicans have flipped eight seats in the House, for a net gain of five seats — Democrats have flipped just three, according to the New York Times.
But 23 seats remain outstanding. Of those, Republican candidates are leading in 15 races. That means that if Republicans were to win every undecided race in which they currently lead, Republicans will hold 211 seats in the House, slashing into Democrats' majority and positioning themselves to regain the House majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
What did McCarthy say?
McCarthy explained on Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures" that Pelosi could lose the speakership both because of Republican gains and because of Democrats who oppose her continued leadership.
The top House Republican pointed to the fact that a majority of the Democrats who opposed Pelosi's speakership after the last election are returning to the House.
"To become speaker you have to have 218 votes on the floor. When she went up for that vote two years ago, there were 15 Democrats who voted against her. Ten of those Democrats will be coming back to Congress. If those 10 vote against her again, she will not be speaker of the House because she won't have 218 because of the gains of Republicans," McCarthy explained.
In fact, McCarthy said there is a chance Republicans could control the House — even if they don't win a majority this election.
"We are close enough now that we can control the floor with a few Democrats joining with us," McCarthy said.
To secure the speakership two years ago, Pelosi made a deal with Democrats that she would limit her leadership in the party to just four more years. That would make the upcoming session of Congress her last term as speaker if she is re-elected by the House.
Pelosi has since announced that she will, indeed, seek the speakership again if Democrats retain their House majority.
Still, even though Democrats likely won the White House and will probably retain their majority in the House — albeit a much smaller majority — Republicans have widely been declared the winners of the election.
As MSNBC host Joe Scarborough explained, "There is no way to put this other than to say ... Joe Biden winning looks like a one-off. This election for the most part was an absolute repudiation of the Democratic Party as a brand. Their brand doesn't work across most of America. It just doesn't."