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Pelosi Elected First Woman to Lead Either Party in Congress

Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) today became the highest-ranking woman in Congress when she was elected as the House Minority Leader, the first woman and the first Californian to lead either party. Pelosi tops herself in this new position—she had previously become the highest-ranking woman in Congress when she was elected House Minority Whip last year. Richard Gephardt, the former Minority Leader, did not seek reelection this term in what is widely regarded as his preparation to run for President in 2004.

Pelosi beat her closest competitor, the more conservative Harold Ford of Tennessee, by a wide margin of 177-28, MSNBC reported. Her election indicates a willingness by the Democratic Party to challenge Bush’s policies in Congress more strenuously. At a press conference announcing her victory, Pelosi stressed that “We will try to work with Republicans. Where we cannot, we will put up a fight.”

At the press conference, when a reporter interrupted her statement, Pelosi flashed her signature smile and said, “I’m not finished. I’ve been waiting over 200 years for this.” Later she underscored the importance of her election historically by saying, “I didn’t run as a woman, I ran as a seasoned politician and legislator and it just so happens that I am a woman. We have been waiting a long time for this moment.”

Pelosi is a longtime friend of the feminist movement, and her election will surely be a boost for women’s rights in Congress. Pelosi remains staunchly pro-choice and has a strong women’s rights voting record. Her focus in the House has been on international family planning, AIDS prevention, human rights in China, and environmental causes. She is also the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Pelosi, who hails from Baltimore, represents the 8th Congressional District in California where she has been active in politics since the 1970s.

House Republicans are considering electing Deborah Pryce of Ohio to the party’s fourth-highest spot in the House, in a move intended to counter Pelosi’s election, according to the Washington Times. Pryce, a former judge, was the sponsor of the House’s problematic welfare reauthorization bill earlier this year. The bill increases work requirements, promotes marriage in a way that is coercive and an invasion of privacy, offers less childcare support, and imposes abstinence-only sexual education on welfare recipients, according to the National Organization for Women.

Media Resources: MSNBC 11/14/02; San Francisco Chronicle 11/14/02; New York Times 11/14/02; Washington Post 11/14/02; Washington Times 11/13/02; NOW June 2002

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