Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)
California Democrat Nancy Pelosi made history in November with her
successful bid to replace Richard Gephardt as House minority leader,
becoming the first woman ever to lead a party in Congress.
off opponents' claims that her liberal voting record puts her
out of touch with mainstream America, Pelosi says she is determined
to work with the Republican-led 108th Congress toward goals she
believes are in the national interest.
the White House and both houses of Congress under Republican control,
however, Pelosi is now charged with fitting Democrats' policy
ideas into a GOP-managed docket - a challenge she says she's ready
we can find our common ground, we shall seek it," Pelosi
told reporters after her selection. "Where we cannot find
that common ground, we must stand our ground."
was born into a political family in Baltimore where her father,
Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., a former congressman, served as mayor
for twelve years. Her brother, Tommy Jr., was also Baltimore mayor
in the 1970's. She received a bachelor's degree from Trinity College
in Washington, D.C., where she met her husband, Paul, a San Francisco
native. They later returned to Paul's home city to raise their
began her political career by joining the Democratic National
Committee in 1976. She became the committee's chairwoman in 1984,
and was elected in 1987 as California's 8th Congressional District
representative in a special election following the death of Congresswoman
8th District includes most of the city of San Francisco, where
Pelosi's popularity has since won her eight consecutive election
victories, most recently with 80 percent of the district's votes.
of the issues Pelosi has historically championed find their roots
in her constituents. Pelosi has supported welfare for legal immigrants
and she led the opposition to establishing Permanent Normal Trade
Relations with China throughout the 1990s, citing human rights
violations by the Chinese government. Her voting record has included
support for gay and lesbian rights, environmental protection and
education. A self-proclaimed "conservative Catholic,"
Pelosi has also staunchly defended abortion rights.
comprised 14 percent of the House of Representatives when Pelosi
was elected as House minority whip in 2001, up from just five
percent when she joined the House in 1987. Her victory ended a
fierce race for whip against Steny Hoyer of Maryland, and made
Pelosi the then-highest ranking woman in congressional history.
Pelosi said she didn't want to be simply defined by her gender.
didn't run as a woman," Pelosi said. "I presented my
credentials as an experienced legislator, skilled organizer, astute
politician. I didn't want anyone to vote for me or against me
because I was a woman. But the fact that I am a woman is a giant
said her political ascent is meaningful because it had been difficult
for women to rise in power in the U.S. Congress.
overwhelming popularity, fueled by a voting record in synch with
many of her constituents' interests, virtually guaranteed Pelosi
an 8th District victory in 2002. With her home race secured, Pelosi
used her fundraising prowess to funnel $778,000 to more than 100
Democratic candidates across the country, according to one report.
Gephardt's decision to step down from the post in November, Pelosi
translated her Election Day popularity and already high standing
into a successful bid for minority leader, defeating Harold Ford
of Tennessee in a 177-29 vote.
minority leader, Pelosi has identified national security and the
economy as her major legislative focal points.
is the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee
on Intelligence, and initially voted against the congressional
resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq when the
resolution was passed last October. More recently she has said
she would support the president if he decided to send troops.
hope that it does not come to that," Pelosi told NBC's Meet
The Press in November, "we want to make sure that we can
resolve this and show our greatness by resolving it diplomatically,
rather than just showing our power by going in militarily."
has said it's important for the two parties to come together over
issues of national security. She strongly objected to the size
of the president's proposed Homeland Security Department, saying
she had hoped for a department that was "lean and of the
future." But Pelosi voted to pass the Homeland Security Bill
last November. She said her concerns hadn't changed but that the
country needed the department.
is a clear and present danger, and we must be together fighting
it. And so let's just get this bill on its way and not make a
political issue of it," Pelosi told the NewsHour.
economy may be a point of departure, however, between Democrats
and Republicans. Pelosi says it's clear the president's plan has
year, President Bush told the nation in his State of the Union
address that his economic plan could be summarized in a single
word -- jobs. Unfortunately, his record could be summed up in
one phrase -- loss of jobs," Pelosi said in a speech at the
National Press Club on Jan. 27.
threat of war, terrorism and recession are combining to make Americans
less sure about their future and less certain about the course
our nation is taking," Pelosi said.
announced the House Democrats' own economic plan on Jan. 6, calling
for a 26-week extension of unemployment benefits and a $300 tax
rebate for every working American, among other things. Pelosi
has pledged to "put everything on the table" in order
to come up with a proper economic remedy.
-- By Ellen Guettler, Online NewsHour