Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi (March 26, 1940 - ) is the Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives and served as the 60th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2007 to 2011. Before being elected Speaker in the 110th Congress, she was the House Minority Leader from 2003 to 2007.
With her election as Speaker, Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the United States House of Representatives. She is also the first Italian-American and first Californian to serve as Speaker. She is the second Speaker from a state west of the Rocky Mountains, with the first being Washington's Tom Foley, who was the last Democrat to hold the post before Pelosi. As Speaker of the House, Pelosi ranked second in the United States line of presidential succession, following the Vice President, which made her the highest-ranking female politician in United States history. Any politician has admirers and detractors, depending on a critic's perspective. However, regardless of anyone's political views, in breaking the "marble ceiling" as the first woman Speaker of the House, Pelosi helped to open up opportunities for more of the nation's elected female representatives to be considered for such high office. Whenever a barrier is broken, a bridge is also built for others to walk across.
Nancy Pelosi was born in Baltimore, Maryland. The youngest of six children, she was involved with politics from an early age. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., was a U.S. Congressman from Maryland and a Mayor of Baltimore. Her brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, also a Democrat, was mayor of Baltimore from 1967 to 1971, when he declined to run for a second term.
Pelosi graduated from Institute of Notre Dame, a Catholic all-girls high school in Baltimore, and from Trinity College (now Trinity Washington University) in Washington, D.C. in 1962. Pelosi interned for Senator Daniel Brewster (D-Maryland) alongside future House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. She met Paul Frank Pelosi (b. April 15, 1940, in San Francisco, California) while she was attending Trinity College. They married in a Catholic church on September 7, 1963. After the couple married they moved to New York, and then to San Francisco in 1969, where his brother, Ronald Pelosi was a member of the City and County of San Francisco's Board of Supervisors.
After moving to San Francisco, Pelosi worked her way up in Democratic politics. She was elected as party chairwoman for Northern California on January 30, 1977. She later joined forces with one of the leaders of the California Democratic Party, 5th District Congressman Phillip Burton. And in 1987, after her youngest child became a high school senior, she decided to run for political office.
Pelosi is a board member of the National Organization of Italian American Women.
Pelosi has five children: Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra, as well as seven grandchildren. Alexandra, a journalist, covered the Republican presidential campaigns in 2000 and made a film about the experience, Journeys with George. In 2007, Christine published a book, Campaign Boot Camp: Basic Training for Future Leaders.
Phillip Burton died in 1983 and was succeeded by his wife, Sala. In late 1986, Sala became ill with cancer and decided not to run for reelection in 1988. She picked Pelosi as her designated successor, guaranteeing her the support of the Burtons' contacts. Sala died on February 1, 1987, just a month after being sworn in for a second full term. Pelosi won the special election to succeed her, narrowly defeating San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt on April 7, 1987, then easily defeating Republican candidate Harriet Ross on June 2, 1987; Pelosi took office a week later. Pelosi has the distinction of contributing the most among members of Congress to other congressional campaigns because she is in a safe district and does not need the campaign funds.
Pelosi represents one of the safest Democratic districts in the country. Democrats have held the seat since 1949, and Republicans, who currently make up only 13 percent of registered voters in the district, have not made a serious bid for the seat since the early 1960s. Pelosi has kept this tradition going. Since her initial victory in 1987, she has been re-elected 11 times, receiving at least 75 percent of the vote. She has never participated in candidates' debates.
In the House, she served on the Appropriations and Intelligence Committees, and was the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee until her election as Speaker.
In 2001, Pelosi was elected the House Minority Whip, second-in-command to Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri. She was the first woman in U.S. history to hold that position. Since then, she has campaigned for candidates in 30 states and in 90 Congressional districts, making her a vital factor for the Democratic Party.
In 2002, after Gephardt resigned as minority leader to seek the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election, Pelosi was elected to replace him, becoming the first woman to lead a minority and major party in the House.
Shortly after winning re-election, President George W. Bush claimed a mandate for an ambitious second-term agenda that would include the privatization of Social Security. Pelosi strongly opposed the privatization of Social Security, and as minority leader imposed intense party discipline on her caucus, leading them to near-unanimous opposition of Bush's proposal. With a unified Democratic Party pushing against the President's plan, Social Security privatization was defeated.
In the wake of George W. Bush's reelection in 2004, several leading House Democrats believed that Democrats should pursue impeachment proceedings against the president. They asserted that Bush had misled Congress about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and had violated the civil liberties of Americans by authorizing wiretaps without a warrant.
In May 2006, with an eye on the upcoming Congressional elections—which offered the possibility of Democrats taking back control of the House for the first time since 1994—Pelosi told colleagues that, while the Democrats would conduct vigorous oversight of Bush administration policy, an impeachment investigation was "off the table." (A week earlier, she had told the Washington Post that, although Democrats would not set out to impeach the president, "you never know where" investigations might lead.)
Since becoming Speaker of the House in January 2007, Pelosi held firm against impeachment, notwithstanding strong support for that course of action among constituents in her home district. In the November 2008 election, Pelosi withstood a challenge for her seat by antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, who ran as an independent primarily because of Pelosi's refusal to pursue impeachment.
On November 16, 2006, Pelosi was unanimously chosen as the Democratic candidate for Speaker, effectively making her Speaker-elect. While the Speaker is elected by the full House membership, in modern practice the election is a formality, since the Speaker always comes from the majority party.
Pelosi supported her longtime friend, John Murtha of Pennsylvania, for the position of House Majority Leader, the second-ranking post in the House Democratic caucus. His competitor was House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who had been Pelosi's second-in-command since 2003. Pelosi and Hoyer had a somewhat frosty relationship dating back to 2001, when they ran against each other for minority whip. However, Hoyer was elected as House Majority Leader over Murtha by a margin of 149-86 within the caucus.
On January 3, Pelosi defeated Republican John Boehner of Ohio with 233 votes compared to his 202 votes in the election for Speaker of the House. She was nominated by Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, the incoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, and sworn in by her longtime friend, John Dingell of Michigan, as the longest-serving member of the House traditionally does.
In her speech to Congress she stated:
I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and look forward to working with you on behalf of the American people. In this House, we may belong to different parties, but we serve one country.
During her speech, she discussed the historical importance of being the first female to hold the Speaker's position:
This is a historic moment—for the Congress, and for the women of this country. It is a moment for which we have waited more than 200 years. Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. 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. For our daughters and granddaughters, today, we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit, anything is possible for them.
She also spoke on Iraq as the major issue facing the 110th Congress while incorporating some Democratic Party beliefs:
The election of 2006 was a call to change—not merely to change the control of Congress, but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in Iraq. The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.
As Speaker, Pelosi is still the leader of the House. However, by tradition, she does not normally participate in debate (though she has the right to do so), and almost never votes on the floor. She is also not a member of any House committees.
Pelosi was re-elected Speaker in 2009.
Prior to the U.S. 2006 midterm elections, Pelosi announced a plan for action: If elected, she and the newly empowered Democratic caucus would push through most of its program during the first hundred hours of the 110th Congress' term. Later she said this referred to business hours rather than clock time, and began on the Tuesday (January 9, 2007) after the swearing-in ceremony on January 4.
The origin for the name "first hundred hours" is a play on words derived from former Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's promise for quick action on the part of government (to combat the Great Depression) during his "first hundred days" in office. Newt Gingrich, the former Republican Speaker, had a similar 100-day agenda to implement the Contract with America.
On January 5, 2007 reacting to suggestions from President Bush's confidantes that he would increase troop levels in Iraq (which he announced in a speech a few days later), Pelosi joined with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to condemn the plan. They sent Bush a letter saying, "[T]here is no purely military solution in Iraq. There is only a political solution. Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain. … Rather than deploy additional forces to Iraq, we believe the way forward is to begin the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months, while shifting the principal mission of our forces there from combat to training, logistics, force protection, and counter-terror."
Pelosi was named Permanent Chair of the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado.
Pelosi was one of seven American lawmakers to participate in a 2007 Mideast tour—with Keith Ellison (D-MN), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Tom Lantos (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Nick Rahall (D-WV), and David Hobson (R-OH)—that included stops in Israel, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. Three Republican congressmen—Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts and Robert Aderholt—met with Syrian President Bashar Assad earlier. Pelosi had the opportunity to address the Israeli Knesset where she expressed concern "that the new (Hamas-Fatah) Palestinian government, some of the people in the government, continue to remain committed to the existence of Israel." An Israeli spokeswoman said Pelosi would convey "that Israel is willing to talk if they (Syria) would openly take steps to stop supporting terrorism" in order to be "a partner for negotiations."
The delegation talked "extensively" with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about a relaunched 2002 Saudi peace-plan with Israel, which Olmert welcomed as a "new way of thinking, the willingness to recognize Israel as an established fact and to debate the conditions of the future solution," but expressed reservations over the plan and invited Arab leaders to discuss them. The delegation met with the families of the three kidnapped Israeli soldiers during the visit and Pelosi said she planned to raise the issue when she met with Assad.
At a press conference after her meeting with Assad, Pelosi said that she had conveyed a message from Olmert to Syrian President Assad saying that Olmert was ready to negotiate for peace. Olmert's office later clarified what he had actually told Pelosi, saying that "although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the axis of evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East". Sources at the Israeli Prime Minister's Office at the time said that, "Pelosi took part of the things that were said in the meeting, and used what suited her."
Later, in Saudi Arabia, Pelosi met with King Abdullah. Pelosi visited the Shura Council, the kingdom's unelected advisory council, and raised the issue of Saudi Arabia's lack of female politicians with Saudi officials.
On March 21, 2008, Pelosi criticized the People's Republic of China for its handling of the unrest in Tibet and called on "freedom-loving people" worldwide to denounce China. She was quoted as saying, "The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world," while addressing a crowd of thousands of Tibetans in Dharamsala, India. She, however, did not call for a boycott of the 2008 Summer Olympics that were held in Beijing.
On October 24, 2008, Pelosi commended the European Parliament for its "bold decision" to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Chinese dissident and human rights activist Hu Jia. "I call on the Chinese government to immediately and unconditionally release Hu Jia from prison and to respect the fundamental freedoms of all the people in China," Pelosi's statement read.
Pelosi publicly scolded Colombian President Álvaro Uribe during Uribe's May 2007 state trip to America. Pelosi met with Uribe and later released a statement that she and other members of Congress had "expressed growing concerns about the serious allegations" of links between Paramilitary groups and Colombian government officials. Pelosi also came out against the Colombian free trade agreement.
Pelosi voted in favor of keeping the travel restrictions on American citizens to Cuba, until the President has certified that Cuba has released all political prisoners, and extradited all individuals sought by the U.S. on charges of air piracy, drug trafficking, and murder.
In a February 15, 2007 interview, Pelosi noted that Bush consistently said he supports a diplomatic resolution to differences with Iran "and I take him at his word." At the same time, she said, "I do believe that Congress should assert itself, though, and make it very clear that there is no previous authority for the president, any president, to go into Iran." On January 12, 2007, Congressman Walter B. Jones of North Carolina introduced a resolution requiring that—absent a national emergency created by an attack, or a demonstrably imminent attack, by Iran upon the United States or its armed forces—the President must consult with Congress and receive specific authorization prior to initiating any use of military force against Iran. This resolution was removed from a military spending bill for the war in Iraq by Pelosi on March 13, 2007.
In mid-October 2007, after the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution to label the 1915 killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks as genocide, Pelosi pledged to bring the measure to a vote. The draft resolution prompted warnings from President Bush and fierce criticism from Turkey, with Turkey's prime minister saying that approval of the resolution would endanger U.S.-Turkey relations. After House support eroded, the measure's sponsors dropped their call for a vote, and in late October Pelosi agreed to set the matter aside.
Pelosi is regarded as a liberal, in part because she represents most of San Francisco, well known for its tradition of left-leaning politics. She consistently receives high ratings from liberal lobbying groups such as Americans for Democratic Action and People for the American Way, and she has a lifetime rating of three from the right-leaning American Conservative Union. During the 2004 and 2006 election cycles, Republicans frequently used the prospect of a "San Francisco liberal" or "Bay Area liberal" becoming Speaker as a tool to win votes, especially in the South. She was a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, but left in 2003 after being elected Minority Leader. She felt that it would be inappropriate for her to be a member of any caucuses.
Among Pelosi's Democratic colleagues, she is considered to be far less liberal than portrayed. Her longtime friend, Jim McDermott of Washington, told Newsweek that he and other left-leaning Democratic congressmen sometimes wish that "she would tilt a little more our way from time to time." During the 2006 campaign, corporate consultants suggested that the Democrats portray themselves as a party that governed for all.
In San Francisco, Pelosi is seen as being a moderate and sometimes even a conservative rather than a liberal, which has led to some conflicts with her constituents, particularly with anti-war activists. Nonetheless, she has never faced a serious challenger in the Democratic primary or from the Green Party, which is competitive in local elections.
On September 2, 2008, she visited Hiroshima, Japan, for a G8 summit meeting of lower house speakers and offered flowers in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park for the victims of the 1945 atomic bombing. While many world leaders have visited Hiroshima over the years, she is the highest-ever sitting U.S. official to pay her respects.
Pelosi supports the legality of abortion. She voted against the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 and earlier attempts at similar bans. She voted in favor of the 1998 Abortion Funding Amendment, which allowed the use of district funds to promote abortion-related activities.
She has also voted in favor of using federal funds to perform abortions in overseas military facilities, against parental notification when a minor is transported across state lines for an abortion, and in favor of providing funding for organizations working overseas that promote or perform abortions and abortion-related activities.
Leading bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have criticized Pelosi about her stance on abortion.
During the 2008 campaign season, Pelosi commented that there was disagreement within the Catholic Church about abortion and when life begins. This drew a rebuke from the Archbishop of Washington, who said Pelosi was incorrect and the official catechism of the Catholic Church on the matter was clear and unchangeable.
Pelosi favors the federal bailout of the banks and the auto industry.
Pelosi has been an advocate for a balanced budget, though she voted against the 1995 Balanced Budget Proposed Constitutional Amendment, which was passed by the House by a 300-132 vote, but in the Senate fell two votes short of the 2/3 supermajority required (with 65 out of 100 Senators voting in favor).
The ACLU's Congressional Scorecard has given Pelosi a lifetime rating of 93 percent for her voting record on civil liberties. In 2001, she voted in favor of the USA Patriot Act but voted against reauthorization of certain provisions in 2005. She voted against a Constitutional amendment banning flag-burning and against a Congressional resolution supporting the display of the Ten Commandments in courtrooms.
In a January 25, 2009 interview with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News, Pelosi said, "Well, the family-planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education, and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those—one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."
Pelosi favors delaying the transition to digital TV to later in 2009 and funding an additional $650 million to give away digital TV converters.
Pelosi voted for the No Child Left Behind Act, which instituted testing to track students' progress and authorized an increase in overall education spending.
Pelosi has supported the development of new technologies to reduce U.S. dependence upon foreign oil and ameliorate the adverse environmental effects of burning fossil fuels. She has widely supported conservation programs and energy research appropriations. She has also voted to remove an amendment that would allow for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Pelosi has blocked efforts to revive offshore oil-drilling in protected areas, reasoning that offshore drilling could lead to an increase in dependence on fossil fuels.
Pelosi has been a supporter of rights for immigrants in the U.S. She voted against the Secure Fence Act of 2006.
In 2002, Pelosi opposed the Iraq Resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against Iraq. In explaining her opposition to the resolution, Pelosi noted that Central Intelligence Agency Director George Tenet had told Congress that the likelihood of Iraq's Saddam Hussein launching an attack on the U.S. using weapons of mass destruction was low. "This is about the Constitution," Pelosi said. "It is about this Congress asserting its right to declare war when we are fully aware what the challenges are to us. It is about respecting the United Nations and a multilateral approach, which is safer for our troops."
Pelosi reaffirms that "America and Israel share an unbreakable bond: in peace and war; and in prosperity and in hardship." Pelosi emphasized that "a strong relationship between the United States and Israel has long been supported by both Democrats and Republicans. America's commitment to the safety and security of the State of Israel is unwavering, …[h]owever, the war in Iraq has made both America and Israel less safe."
Pelosi's voting record shows consistent support for Israel. Prior to 2006 elections in the Palestinian Authority, she voted for a Congressional initiative disapproving of participation in the elections by Hamas and other organizations defined as terrorist by the legislation. She agrees with the current U.S. stance in support of land-for-peace. She has applauded Israeli "hopeful signs" of offering land, while criticizing Palestinian "threats" of not demonstrating peace in turn. She states, "If the Palestinians agree to coordinate with Israel on the evacuation, establish the rule of law, and demonstrate a capacity to govern, the world may be convinced that finally there is a real partner for peace."
During the 2006 Lebanon War, Pelosi voted in favor of Resolution 921 on the count that "the seizure of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah terrorists was an unprovoked attack and Israel has the right, and indeed the obligation, to respond." She argues that organizations and political bodies in the Mideast like Hamas and Hezbollah "have a greater interest in maintaining a state of hostility with Israel than in improving the lives of the people they claim to represent." Pelosi asserts that civilians on both sides of the border "have been put at risk by the aggression of Hamas and Hezbollah" in part for their use of "civilians as shields by concealing weapons in civilian areas."
In September 2008, Pelosi hosted a reception in Washington with Israeli Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik, along with 20 members of Congress where they toasted the "strong friendship" between Israel and the United States. During the ceremony, Pelosi held up the dog tags of the three Israeli soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah and Hamas in 2006 and stated that she keeps them as a "symbol of the sacrifices made, sacrifices far too great by the people of the state of Israel."
Pelosi opposed U.S. intervention to liberate Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.
Pelosi received a 100-percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign for the 107th,108th, and 109th sessions of Congress, indicating that she voted in agreement with HRC's slate of pro-gay legislative issues. and in 2004 and 2006, she voted against the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment, which would amend the United States Constitution to define marriage federally as being between one man and one woman, thereby overriding states' individual rights to legalize gay marriage. When the Supreme Court of California overturned the state's ban on same-sex marriage, Pelosi released a statement welcoming the "historic decision" and voiced her opposition to Proposition 8, which sought to define marriage as between a man and a woman in the state. The proposition appeared on California's 2008 election ballot, and was passed.
Pelosi introduced the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act to Congress.
Pelosi supports reform in marijuana laws. She also supports use of medical marijuana.
In regard to Representative Charles Rangel's (D-NY) plan to introduce legislation that would reinstate the draft, Pelosi stated that she did not support such legislation.
As Speaker of the House, she also spearheaded the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 as part of the 100-Hour Plan. The Act raises the minimum wage in the United States and the territories of the Northern Marianas Islands and American Samoa. American Samoa was initially absent from the act, but as part of HR 2206 it was included. One Republican congressman who voted against the initial bill accused Pelosi of unethically benefiting Del Monte Foods (headquartered in her district) by the exclusion of the territory, where Del Monte's StarKist Tuna brand is a major employer. Pelosi co-sponsored legislation that omitted American Samoa from a raise in the minimum wage as early as 1999, prior to Del Monte's acquisition of StarKist Tuna in 2002. As of the 2002, 2004, and 2006 election cycles, Del Monte has not contributed to Democratic candidates.
Pelosi supports the Syria Accountability Act and Iran Freedom and Support Act. In a speech at the AIPAC 2005 annual conference, Pelosi said that "for too long, leaders from both parties haven't done enough" to put pressure on Russia and China who are providing Iran with technological information on nuclear issues and missiles. "If evidence of participation by other nations in Iran's nuclear program is discovered, I will insist that the Administration use, rather than ignore, the evidence in determining how the U.S. deals with that nation or nations on other issues."
Pelosi officially opposes the interrogation technique of waterboarding. In 2002, Pelosi and several other Congressional leaders received a briefing on then-secret interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. Pelosi's office stated that she later protested the technique and that she concurred with objections raised by a Democratic colleague in a letter to the C.I.A. in early 2003.
Pelosi opposed the welfare reform proposed by then-President Bush as well as reforms proposed and passed under President Clinton.
In mid-July 2008, two days after President George W. Bush stated that Congress was relatively inactive and said, "This is not a record to be proud of, and I think the American people deserve better," Pelosi responded by calling the president "a total failure, losing all credibility with the American people on the war, on the economy, on energy, you name the subject," and that Congress had been "sweeping up after his mess over and over and over again".
With her election, Pelosi became the first woman, the first Californian and the first Italian-American to hold the Speakership. She is also the second Speaker from a state west of the Rocky Mountains. The first was Washington's Tom Foley, the last Democrat to hold the post before Pelosi.
Pelosi's electoral history is equally impressive. Her only close race so far has been the special election to succeed Sala Burton's seat after her death in February 1987. In the special election's Democratic primary, Pelosi narrowly defeated San Francisco Supervisor Harry Britt, considered the more "progressive" candidate, with 36 percent of the vote to his 32 percent. In the runoff against Republican candidate Harriet Ross, Pelosi received more than a two-to-one majority of cast votes in a turnout that comprised about 24 percent of eligible voters. Since then, Pelosi has enjoyed overwhelming support in her political career, collecting 76 and 77 percent of the vote in California's Fifth District for the 1988 and 1990 Race for U.S. House of Representatives. In 1992, after the redistricting from the 1990 Census, Pelosi ran in USHR District 8, which now covered the San Francisco area. She has continued to post impressive results since, dropping beneath 80 percent of the vote only twice. In 2002, she garnered 79.58 percent of the vote, which rounds up to 80 percent in any case.
Despite where you stand politically, Pelosi's breaking the "marble ceiling" by becoming the first woman to be Speaker of the House is an accomplishment that makes America stronger and safer as a nation. Now there is the opportunity for more of the nation's elected female congressional representatives to be considered as Speaker of House.
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