House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco – soon to lose her gavel, as Republicans took a majority of the House in this week’s elections – has just announced she will seek to serve as the House minority leader in the new Congress.
Pelosi, 70, the nation’s first female Speaker, was an untiring advocate of President Barack Obama’s legislative agenda in the past two years and managed to push most of it through the House, from economic stimulus to financial reform to health care to climate change (the latter of which died in the Senate).
But she became a lightning rod for Republican criticism in other parts of the country, with lots of GOP House candidates seeming to run against her rather than their actual opponents. The moderate Blue Dog Democrat caucus was devastated in Tuesday’s elections, and some of the remaining Blue Dogs urged her to step aside. Rumors had abounded that she wouldn’t seek to lead the Democrats, or that she’d retire from Congress entirely.
But she released a letter to her fellow Democrats just a few minutes ago:
“Our work is far from finished. As a result of Tuesday’s election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not. We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back. It is my hope that we can work in a bipartisan way to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.
“Many of our colleagues have called with their recommendations on how to continue our fight for the middle class, and have encouraged me to run for House Democratic Leader. Based on those discussions, and driven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I have decided to run.”
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, who as co-chair of the the Democratic Policy and Steering Committee has been a key adviser to Pelosi, quickly issued a statement:
“I am very encouraged that Speaker Pelosi has decided to stay in Congress and run for Democratic Leader. We have many talented people in our Caucus, each of whom has contributed to our success over the past few years, but I believe she is the best person for this important job at this time.
“The fact is, Nancy Pelosi is the single most effective Member of Congress, period.
“She has accomplished more than any other Speaker in history and has always acted in the best interest of our country. She knows full well that job growth is our No. 1 priority and I know that she will stay focused on creating jobs and growing the economy.
“Nancy Pelosi is also one of the toughest people in politics today.
“She has been attacked and vilified by the right wing because of her effectiveness. But we did not lose seats in this last election because the Republicans attacked her in their negative TV ads. We lost seats primarily because of the 9.6 percent unemployment rate and continued record foreclosures caused by the worst recession since the Great Depression. The Democratic Caucus has already done a great deal to improve the economy and is committed to bringing down unemployment and helping homeowners. Having Nancy Pelosi as our minority leader will help us succeed.
“Nancy Pelosi is the person that Democrats need as their leader to help us win back the House in 2012 and continue America on its road to recovery.”