Saturday 21 September 2019

Nancy Pelosi set to be second in line to presidency if she takes House role

President Donald Trump has tweeted to say that the 78-year-old mother-of-five is a suitable candidate to be speaker of the House of Representatives.

Nancy Pelosi could become speaker of the House (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Nancy Pelosi could become speaker of the House (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

By Lisa Mascaro

Nancy Pelosi has already enlisted an unlikely supporter to be speaker of the House of Representatives, a post that would put her second in line to the presidency after vice-president Mike Pence.

President Donald Trump, in a Wednesday tweet, offered support for Ms Pelosi to take the role after the Democratic Party gained control of the House.

Mr Trump tweeted: “In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats. If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!”

Reclaiming the speaker’s gavel could be Ms Pelosi’s last act, one she intends to use to restore the power of the office after Republican Paul Ryan’s retirement.

She wants to impress on Americans the importance of the legislative branch as a co-equal branch of government.

“People will see a Congress that is very different than we have now,” Ms Pelosi said while campaigning in Arizona days before the election.

The US Capitol (Alex Brandon/AP)

The California Democrat does not think Americans fully understand the significance of the speaker’s job, which, after the vice president, is next in line to the White House.

“What I would do next would be to say, this is what this role is: It’s the leading figure in the first branch of government, it has awesome power, and we get things done,” she said, adding the speaker had to “show the power of the gavel”.

Ms Pelosi was in a celebratory mood on Tuesday evening, declaring “tomorrow will be a new day in America”.

I went from the kitchen to Congress Nancy Pelosi

Few leaders have reclaimed the House speaker’s office after losing it and, as the first woman to wield the gavel, Ms Pelosi’s ascent would be a milestone.

But at 78, she knows her tenure on Capitol Hill is likely coming to a close, even if she refuses to put a date on it.

A new generation of Democratic representatives, propelled by resurgent activism, is heading to the halls of Congress.

That means change is coming, regardless of whether the House flips from Republican control.

Nancy Pelosi marches in the Women’s March in January (Cliff Owen/AP)

Ms Pelosi has campaigned tirelessly this election season.

Fuelled by a steady diet of chocolate, she crisscrossed 30 cities in a 31-day rush aimed at boosting Democratic candidates.

She endured millions of dollars in attack ads and Mr Trump’s rally cry against her “radical Democratic agenda”.

She persuaded candidates to shut out the noise, “don’t take the bait”, and stick with their legislative agenda of lowering health care costs, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure and delivering government reforms.

She also played down liberal cries for Mr Trump’s impeachment.

“It’s not about Democrats and Republicans at this point,” she told volunteers.

“It’s about our country.”

The speaker of the House comes after the vice-president in the White House line of succession (Evan Vucci/AP)

Midterm elections are often the “lounge act” to the presidential contest, as she puts it, but the battle for the House quickly spun into the signature contest of 2018.

Democratic candidates jumped into races, motivated by opposition to the president’s agenda and the Republicans’ proposed changes to health care.

Ms Pelosi comes from the old school of politics, taught by her father, the former mayor of Baltimore, and her mother, who ran a tight Italian-American household.

(PA Graphics)

Constituents would show up at her family’s door, needing favours from her father, who kept a file card system of requests asked and answered.

A street in the city’s charming Little Italy section bears her name, Via Nancy Alessandro Pelosi, celebrating the famous daughter who decamped for San Francisco and helped transform California from the state of Ronald Reagan to the headquarters of Trump resistance.

Mr Trump, though, showed an early interest in working with her, charmed at times by her deal-making prowess.

Ms Pelosi, confident of Democrats winning the House, is hoping for a “decisive” majority, some 230 seats, and optimistic she will again be elected speaker.

The mother of five, who came to the job after raising her family, said she “never used to be such a braggart” but someone has to do it.

“I went from the kitchen to Congress,” she said.

“I know how to pass legislation, I know how to win elections and I know part of my responsibility is to make way for the next generation of leaders.”

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