House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is facing tough questions about her ability to win enough votes to retain her leadership, after Democrats shrunk their House majority and moderates in the party plotted to back a challenger.
Democrats went into Tuesday night expecting to pad their majority in the House by marching deeper into President Donald Trump's 2016 win territory, but instead Republicans made gains.
Already, two centrist Democrats in the House say they are contacting colleagues to round up support for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries, a top Pelosi lieutenant, for Speaker in the next Congress, according to The Hill.
Several moderate House Dems only won tough re-elections after vowing not to back Pelosi for another term as Speaker - and they view Jeffries as a potential establishment leader who could garner support from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's powerful 'squad' of progressives.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces threats to her leadership after House Democrats lost several incumbencies to the GOP and saw their majority shrink
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's powerful 'squad' of progressives expanded its influence, seeing three new allies elected to the House on Tuesday
'He bridges moderates and progressives better than anyone. And most importantly, he's not Nancy Pelosi,' one Democratic lawmaker told The Hill of Jeffries. 'He's the only one prepared and positioned' to be Speaker.
Publicly, Jeffries has shot down any notion of seeking the top leadership role, remaining loyal to Pelosi and saying he is focused on retaining his current job.
The Speaker is chosen by a majority vote of the entire House, meaning that in theory, a handful of centrist Democrats could force the party's hand in the case of a slim majority by threatening to side with Republicans.
However, it's unclear whether Ocasio-Cortez's powerful faction would back Jeffries for Speaker, after she previously threatened to back a primary challenger against the fellow New York Democrat in the 2020 election.
All four members of Ocasio-Cortez's squad won re-election on Tuesday, and the faction added three new progressive allies in districts in Missouri and New York.
Pelosi was notably quiet on Wednesday regarding her party's shrinking margin in the House.
She didn't directly address her losses in a letter to her Democratic colleagues, aside from calling the election 'challenging.'
Two centrist Democrats in the House say they are contacting colleagues to round up support for House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries (above) for House Speaker
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, said the erosion of the Democratic majority could threaten Pelosi's grip on the Speaker's chair.
'I know the vote on the floor is difficult for Speaker. I know there was a number of people who did not vote for her last time,' McCarthy said at a press conference Wednesday, alluding to Democratic defectors two years ago.
'And as our numbers continue to grow, I think at the end of the day, no matter where we end up, we'll be able to have a very big say, or even run the floor when it comes to policy,' McCarthy predicted.
After the 2018 election, Pelosi survived a challenge to her leadership of the caucus -- but was on more solid footing with her party's control of the House than she will be in this cycle.
After the votes are all counted in Tuesday's election, Republicans could very well have a net gain of 10 House seats.
Pelosi led the House with 232 seats compared to Republicans' 197 going into Election Day, but it now appears that the GOP will have somewhere north of 200 seats, holding a solid minority with more power than they've had the last two years.
The Democratic leader along with Chairwoman of House Democrats' campaign arm Rep. Cheri Bustos of Illinois predicted a sunny outcome for Democrats Tuesday, claiming they would defend the 2018 gains and flip districts previously thought to be in safe Republican territory.
'I think we are going to see some wins in these deep red districts that over time you're going to see going from ruby red to purple to even blue,' Bustos said Tuesday.
After the votes are all counted in Tuesday's election, Republicans could very well have a net gain of at least 10 House seats
One of the biggest wins for Republicans Tuesday was finally