The global coronavirus pandemic likely delivered Joe Biden to the Whit House, but, coincidentally, it might ultimately cost House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., her position of power.
Not only have Republicans closed the margin of the Democrats' House majority, 222-211 with two races still to be decided, but COVID-19 quarantine or infections might preclude some Pelosi supporters from partaking in the vote for her remaining House speaker.
"Let's say, just theoretically, we had six or eight people out with COVID and the Republicans have none: They probably could elect [Kevin] McCarthy," Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Ky., told The Hill.
Pelosi defectors could put her at risk, too, but it is more likely only a COVID-19 outbreak among Democrats will impact her ability to get 218 votes to remain speaker.
"We're in a health care crisis, right? No one can get sick. That's the X-factor here," an anonymous Democrat-supporter of Pelosi told The Hill. "We need everyone to be healthy.
"That's the big fear."
The vote for the next speaker is planned for Jan. 3, which is three days before the joint session of Congress weighs the certification of the Electoral College.
"COVID is a wild card Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., told The Hill. "If we have sick members who cannot come back, and we only have a four-vote majority, it throws our entire advent of the 117th Congress in peril — a smooth advent."
Also, an unsettled Democratic Party might ultimately impact the vote Jan. 5 in the two Georgia Senate runoffs, impacting the party's ability to flip control of the upper chamber, according to Johnson.
"The implications that it could have on the race[s] down in Georgia, it is unsettling," he added to The Hill.
The prospect of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., becoming speaker in the moment of Democrat weakness or COVID-19 quarantines make it at least somewhat possible Democrats rally to unilaterally support the Democrat leader Jan. 3.
"There's the usual suspects who make it part of their brand to vote against her. But I think there's an awareness — and there's certainly a message coming from within the caucus — that this may not be a year for the usual branding," Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., told The Hill. "We're a fractious bunch, but Pelosi's very, very good at what she does. So she's going to earn her money."
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