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Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman January 12, 2021

Pelosi is still speaker of the House. Viral video shows standard pro tempore procedure

If Your Time is short

  • This is wrong. The clip showed the opening of a brief session when the presiding officer, in this case Nancy Pelosi, was absent and appointed a “Speaker pro tempore.” 

  • This is standard House procedure and doesn’t indicate that Pelosi has resigned as speaker.

Nancy Pelosi was re-elected speaker of the House for the 117th Congress on Jan. 3.

Despite a shrinking Democratic House majority, Pelosi won 216 votes to retain her leadership post. A handful of Democrats broke ranks to support someone else or vote present and all House Republicans voted for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

Now a viral, 28-second clip from a Jan. 11 House session is being misconstrued on social media. The Facebook user who shared the video inaccurately claims that it shows Pelosi is "no longer speaker of the House" as of that date. That’s a complete misreading of the clip: Pelosi is still the House speaker.

The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The clip shows the opening of a pro forma session when representatives were asked for unanimous consent to consider a resolution calling on Vice President Mike Pence to activate the 25th Amendment to remove President Donald Trump from office.

A pro forma session is a short period of time when either the House or Senate is technically in legislative session but when no votes are held and no formal business is typically conducted. 

The video shows House clerk Joe Novotny, reading a letter from Pelosi that appoints Rep. Deborah Dingell, D-Mich., as "speaker pro tempore," a short-term assignment that is normal procedure when the usual presiding officer is absent. The assignment is temporary and does not indicate that the speaker of the House has been removed or resigned.

Featured Fact-check

Chapter 34, Sec. 6, of the House Practice guide to the Rules, Precedents and Procedures of the House says:

"The Speaker may appoint a Speaker pro tempore. Such an appointment may not exceed three legislative days, except that in the case of illness the Speaker's appointment may extend to 10 days with the approval of the House." 

A video of the full session is available on C-SPAN, which says in its description that Republican Rep. Alex Moone of West Virginia objected to the request for unanimous consent to take up the 25th Amendment resolution, thus blocking the action for now. 

Our ruling

A Facebook post including a video of a Jan. 11 House session claims that it shows that Pelosi is no longer House speaker.

This is wrong. The clip showed the opening of a pro forma session when the presiding officer, in this case Pelosi, was absent and appointed a "speaker pro tempore." This is standard procedure and doesn’t indicate that Pelosi resigned as speaker eight days after being re-elected to the position.

We rate this False.

CORRECTION, Jan. 13, 2021: Clerk Joe Novotny read Pelosi’s letter before the House. An earlier version erroneously identified the person reading the letter. This story has been updated. 

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More by Samantha Putterman

Pelosi is still speaker of the House. Viral video shows standard pro tempore procedure

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