WASHINGTON: Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California has decided to stay in Congress and serve as House Democratic leader for two more years, she announced Wednesday.
House Democrats had made it clear that she could remain in the position if she decided not to retire, which had been considered a possibility. Her decision puts her at the fulcrum of the impending debate over fiscal issues.
Meanwhile, Republicans chose Rep. John A. Boehner, R-West Chester, for another term as House Speaker. The formal vote on the speaker’s position will be taken by the full House after the new Congress convenes in January.
Pelosi, 72, had been weighing whether she wanted to continue in the role given the likelihood that regaining the majority will be difficult in the midterm elections. Her departure would have opened the door to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland to replace her, but he will have to continue to bide his time.
Surrounded by most of the 61 female members of the House, Pelosi took a slow windup, extolling the virtues of women in office, before explaining her decision.
“I have made the decision, that some of you may have some interest in, in order to continue work in empowering women, to making sure that our Affordable Care Act is enforced in a way to make sure that being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition,” she said. “I have made a decision to submit my name to my colleagues to once again serve as Democratic House leader.”
As her staff tried repeatedly to prevent reporters from asking more than a few questions, an animated Pelosi seemed to enjoy her moment, saying she would use the next two years to help elect more women and to fight the role of money in politics. She became visibly exercised when a reporter suggested that the age of the slate of Democratic leaders — all are over 70 — was preventing younger leaders from advancing in the party.
“You’ve always asked that question except to Mitch McConnell,” Pelosi said, referring to the Senate Republican leader, who is 70, as women behind her yelled, “Age discrimination!” “Let’s for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it’s quite offensive, though you don’t realize it, I guess,” she added before saying: “No.”
In January 2007, Pelosi became the first female speaker of the House. She ceded that post to Boehner in the 2010 midterm elections.
Despite the steep losses that cost her party control of the House, Pelosi was elected minority leader just over two weeks later.
In a hotly contested leadership battle, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington went head to head with Rep. Tom Price of Georgia over leadership of the House Republican Conference. Republican leaders were seeking to add a woman to their leadership roster, but Price pulled in support from many conservative members, including Rep. Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. In the end, McMorris Rogers prevailed and the House Republican leadership doubled its number of women to two when Rep. Lynn Jenkins of Kansas was chosen by her peers as the vice chair of the Republican Conference.
On the Senate side, McConnell, of Kentucky, will remain the Republican leader, and his No. 2 will be Sen. John Cornyn of Texas. Cornyn was the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which failed for two election cycles in a row to achieve the Republican goal of taking back that chamber. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas will now fill that role. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota will remain conference chairman, Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming is policy chairman and Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri will serve as conference vice chairman. Senate Democrats voted to retain Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada as majority leader and Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois as their whip, with Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York as the No. 3 in charge of message strategy. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington will remain the caucus secretary, and Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan will be in charge of the Democrats’ steering and outreach committee.
The Tribune Washington Bureau contributed to this report.