9 Facts About Nancy Pelosi That Highlight The Power Of Her Historic Speakership
Nancy Pelosi officially became the new House speaker on Thursday, ensuring that she'll play a key role in defining the House's next two years of Democratic control. This month marks the start of both her third term in that position and her 32nd year in Congress. She's been painted as a scapegoat for both Republicans and critical Democrats throughout her time in Congress, but there's much more to her long tenure on Capitol Hill: Keep reading for some facts about Nancy Pelosi that show how she climbed to the top of her party.
Pelosi has vowed that the House will act very differently now that Democrats control the chamber with a 36-seat majority. Although the White House and Senate are still controlled by Republicans (and the GOP has expanded its Senate majority by a few seats), many Democrats are optimistic that Pelosi will be able to accomplish some of her goals. Those hopes are boosted by the fact that her caucus is reportedly more united these days than it has been in recent years.
For her part, Pelosi insists that the swearing-in of the new Congress marks the dawn of a new era. Trump "was used to serving with a Republican Congress, House, and Senate that was a rubber stamp to him. That won't be the case [anymore]," she told USA Today in an interview published Thursday.
Here are a few more things you should know about Pelosi, including the fact that she's responsible for a whole lot of firsts.
She Became The First Female Speaker Of The House In 2007
"This is a historic moment — for the Congress, and for the women of this country," she said in a speech after being elected speaker of the House that year. "It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years... But women weren't just waiting; women were working. Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal."
Before That, She Was The First Woman To Lead A Major Congressional Party
Four years prior to her election as speaker, she became the first female House minority whip in 2001, and then the first woman to lead a major congressional party the next year. That made her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. Congress, according to CNN.
Add "First Italian-American To Lead A Major Congressional Party" To The List
Pelosi's mother was born in Italy and her father was born in the United States, though both of his parents were from Italy. Her parents met in Rhode Island, married, and raised their kids to be both tenaciously liberal and proud of their Italian heritage, Pelosi once told NPR. In interviews during her first rise to speaker of the House, Italian-Americans told Boston.com that they were "inspired" by Pelosi's leadership and considered it "an achievement for us."
She's Been A Consistent LGBTQ Advocate In Congress
Pelosi first entered Congress in 1987, when gay rights issues were generally taboo. Still, she proudly affirmed her support for gay marriage and spoke about the need for increased leadership to fight AIDS in her first speech to Congress. (Then-President Ronald Reagan was extremely slow to respond to the epidemic, for which he has been heavily criticized.)
"There is no better ally to the LGBTQ community on Capitol Hill than Leader Pelosi, period," a group of more than 150 LGBTQ leaders and advocates wrote in November in an open letter supporting her speakership bid. Pelosi represents the district that encapsulates most of San Francisco, a city that's historically been a center of queer culture.
She Opposed The Iraq War From The Beginning
Pelosi was one of 126 Democrats in the House who voted against allowing President George W. Bush to invade Iraq in 2002. (She did vote in favor of the original authorization of use of force immediately following 9/11; Rep. Barbara Lee, a fellow California Democrat, holds the distinction of being the only member of either chamber to vote against that.) Pelosi continued to fiercely oppose the Iraq War as the years went on.
In 2010, She Helped Pass The Affordable Care Act
The Intercept's Ryan Grim identified Pelosi as the one who "shepherded through" the Affordable Care Act — also known as "Obamacare" — because she fought to get it passed when other Democrats had written it off as impossible. She ended up making concessions on matters like abortion to court the requisite votes, which led to criticism from progressives. But Grim and many others credit her with at least managing to get a version of the law passed. Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times writes that Obamacare is what Pelosi is currently "most remembered for."
She's Known As An Excellent Fundraiser
One frequently-touted point about Pelosi is how effective she is at raising money for Democrats. As The New Republic points out, she's raised well over a half billion dollars since assuming control of the liberal caucus in the House in 2003. Her supporters also argue that she's good at uniting her party and winning over votes for legislative initiatives.
She's Not Without Critics, Though
For many years, analysts generally considered Pelosi to be further to the left than most congressional Democrats. But these days, many progressives view her brand of liberalism as outdated. At a time when support for democratic socialism and economic populism is on the rise, Pelosi continues to insist that the United States is "capitalist ― and that's just the way it is."
She Has A Long List Of Priorities For The New Congress
Pelosi has big plans now that Democrats have taken back the House. Per The Daily Signal, she's said she intends to increase oversight on President Donald Trump, including fighting to obtain his tax returns. She also hopes to pass the Equality Act, which would add provisions for LGBTQ people and women to the Civil Rights Act; protect DACA; lower prescription drug costs under the Affordable Care Act; pass gun control measures; and pursue campaign finance and voting rights reform.
Pelosi has agreed not to pursue a fifth term as speaker, which means that if she gets reelected in 2021, she'll step down after that term. But the country has at least two — if not four — more years of the leader that CNN's Dana Bash calls "the original Badass Woman of Washington."