WASHINGTON (AFP) - US Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday (Nov 18) chose House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, to lead the party into the Joe Biden era and preside over their narrow House majority as the most powerful person in Congress.
The highest-ranking woman in US congressional history - and outgoing President Donald Trump's chief nemesis on Capitol Hill - ran unopposed for the top job.
She was nominated in a virtual leadership election, the first of its kind as the nation grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
Pelosi said she was "very, very honoured" to accept the nomination for speaker and pledged to take action to help "crush" the Covid-19 crisis.
What Congress addresses next "has to be about justice in our economy, it has to be about justice in our justice system," she added.
"Justice in our environment, environmental justice, justice in our health care."
A formal House floor vote for the speakership occurs in January after the new congressional session begins, and shortly before Biden takes office as the 46th US president. She is widely expected to win.
Pelosi has led her caucus since 2003. Two years ago she agreed to serve in the post through 2022 at most, a move that may have cleared the way for her easy re-nomination Wednesday.
The House Democratic caucus, in a tweet, hailed the nomination of their "fearless leader." But tensions have simmered. In the November 3 election, Democrats fell well short of their stated aim to expand their 233-202 majority, failing to oust a single Republican incumbent and losing at least 10 seats.
Some close races were still being counted, but when the dust settles Pelosi may find she is leading the narrowest majority in years.
While there have been calls within the ranks for new blood in the ideologically fractured conference's leadership, the top three spots went to a trio of octogenarians led by Pelosi.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 81, and 80-year-old House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the highest ranking Black member, were also both re-elected unopposed to their leadership posts.
The highest-ranking contested race was for assistant speaker, the number four party position, and it is showcasing potential members of a new generation of Democratic leaders.
It pits congresswoman Katherine Clark, 57 and currently the vice chair of the Democratic caucus, against the more progressive Democrat David Cicilline, 59, the first openly gay member of House leadership.
Republicans during the campaign painted their Democratic rivals as "radical" leftists who sought to defund the police and embrace socialism, a message they reiterated Tuesday after their own House leadership vote re-elected the top Republican lawmakers including minority leader Kevin McCarthy.
The fight for America's future is "truly a battle between freedom and socialism," number two Republican Steve Scalise said.
"You saw voters across the country in all kind of districts reject the socialist agenda that Speaker Pelosi pushed for these last two years.