Pelosi To Stay On As Minority Leader

The House minority leader meets with her caucus and puts the rumors to rest.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

WASHINGTON, DC — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told a packed caucus meeting on Wednesday morning that, if Steve Israel is willing to head up the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee again, then she will happily retain her spot as the leader of the Democratic caucus.

Israel is expected to renew his role as DCCC chair.

According to a Democratic aide, Leader Pelosi told members of her caucus, “They say a picture is worth a million words. Well, this picture is worth millions of aspirations of the American people. This new class makes our caucus historic. The first time in legislative history that a caucus will be a majority of women and minorities.”

“The message is clear from the American people,” she continued, echoing remarks she delivered at a press conference yesterday. “They want us to work together to get things done. And that’s what these folks are here to do. Just like all of you.”

The decision came one day after Pelosi teased reporters at a press conference, saying of her pending decision, “I love you all very dearly, but I thought I’d tell my caucus first.”

In a press conference later Wednesday morning, Pelosi confirmed her choice. “I have submitted my name to colleagues to once again serve as the House Democratic leader,” she said.

Pelosi told reporters that she reached her final decision yesterday, having weighed her options with her family, friends, and colleagues. During her press conference Wednesday, Pelosi’s husband stood off to the side of the room. “Decisions are fabulous,” she said. “They’re liberating.”

Speculation has abounded in recent weeks that Pelosi, who is in her 10th year as the top House Democrat, would step aside rather than spend another year in the minority party.

The prospect of a shuffle within the House Democratic leadership fueled rumors of who might step in to fill Pelosi’s spot and, by extension, who would move up to fill the other positions.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, was widely handicapped as the immediate front-runner to succeed Pelosi. He has served in Congress since 1981 and in the Democratic leadership since 2007; during that time, he has solidified his position within the party, and he would likely receive broad support were he to run for minority leader.

Rep. Jim Clyburn was broadly considered a shoo-in to succeed Hoyer should he leave his post as minority whip.

The chatter on Capitol Hill surrounding Pelosi’s potential departure has been of particular intrigue because of Pelosi’s unique legacy in the House.

During her tenure as a member of Congress, where she has served since 1993, Pelosi has emerged as a passionate defender of typically liberal causes, including health care reform.

In 2003, she shattered the glass ceiling in Congress as the first female minority leader in the House; and in 2007, she made history again when she became the first woman to serve as speaker.

Meanwhile, she has often been the target of attacks by the Republican Party, which has fashioned Pelosi as a “San Francisco liberal,” the face of those Democratic causes most reviled by conservatives. Critics have panned her as disingenuous or out of touch.

With her broad smile and upbeat demeanor, Pelosi has also been subject to underestimation by friends and foes alike. If there was “a negative in her political career, it’s that she’s too attractive,” Agar Jaicks, a Democratic activist and longtime acquaintance of Pelosi’s, told The Los Angeles Times in 2003.

But Pelosi, in her actions and words, has scoffed at those who would undersell her. “Anybody who’s ever dealt with me knows not to mess with me,” she told TIME Magazine in 2006.

Indeed, Pelosi was conditioned from a young age to contend with the rough-scrabble world of politics: Her father, Tommy D’Alesandro Jr., served as the mayor of Baltimore and as a congressman.

Nevertheless, Pelosi did not run for elected office herself until she was well into her forties. “Nancy’s life was a dress rehearsal for what she’s doing now,” Rep. Anna Eshoo told TIME Magazine in 2003.

And, as of Wednesday, for what she will continue to do.

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