Two senior Georgia Democrats unexpectedly received nominations to be speaker of the House on Thursday as multiple lawmakers cast protest votes against Nancy Pelosi.
Congressman John Lewis and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams each received a single vote for speaker by Democrats who opposed the Californian’s return to the speakership.
New Yorker Kathleen Rice, a leader of a group of Democrats who had hoped to oust Pelosi, voted for Abrams, while Ron Kind of Wisconsin voiced his support for Lewis.
Rice said she had never met Abrams, who narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp last year, but that she was “impressed” with the former Georgia House minority leader.
“You want to talk about really trying to make Congress work, how great would it be to bring someone in who knows how to legislate, which she does; would be a history-making speaker, which she would be; who’s beholden to no special interest whatsoever, which she’s not,” she said. “How great would that be?”
House rules allow for non-members to be elected speaker, but that’s never occurred in the more than 200-year history of the institution. Other lawmakers on Thursday also cast votes for former Vice President Joe Biden and Illinois U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Abrams thanked Rice on Twitter and quipped that her grandmother would be “amazed” she received a vote for speaker.
Twelve Democrats ultimately voted against Pelosi, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the veteran lawmaker from returning to the speakership.
Thursday wasn’t the first time Lewis, a well-known civil rights figure, received a vote to be speaker. A colleague voted for him two years ago.
A vocal Pelosi supporter who on Thursday donned a blue “Madame Speaker” button, Lewis had urged his colleagues not to vote for him to protest Pelosi.
“Dividing our caucus on this vote for Speaker serves no strategic purpose at this time, except to signal disarray,” Lewis wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues last month. “That is why I must view a vote for me as Speaker as a vote for the Republican nominee.”
After Thursday’s vote, Lewis said he didn’t understand Kind’s vote.
“Sometimes people don’t listen to you,” he said. “Sometimes they go with their own mind, their own conscience. Can’t win ‘em all.”
All five of Georgia’s incoming Democratic lawmakers voted for Pelosi, while all but one of the state’s nine Republicans backed Kevin McCarthy for speaker. Third-term lawmaker Jody Hice, R-Monroe, was one of five lawmakers to vote for Freedom Caucus colleague Jim Jordan.
How Georgia lawmakers voted:
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.: Democrats Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, John Lewis, Lucy McBath and David Scott
U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.: Republicans Buddy Carter, Drew Ferguson, Rob Woodall, Austin Scott, Doug Collins, Barry Loudermilk, Rick Allen and Tom Graves
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio: Republican Jody Hice
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.