U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker when Democrats controlled the chamber from 2007 to 2011, said today she will stay for another two-year term as leader of her party’s caucus.
Pelosi told reporters she is remaining to promote “a healthy political climate” and “reignite the American dream.” President Barack Obama’s win and Democratic gains in the House and Senate in the Nov. 6 election also were big motivators, she said.
“From the standpoint of the victory we had at the polls, I wouldn’t even think of walking away,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi’s decision to stay as minority leader follows the second consecutive election in which Republicans won a majority of the House’s 435 seats. When final votes are counted and the next congressional session convenes in January, Democrats are expected to add seven or eight seats to their current 192-member caucus. Democrats gained two seats in the Senate, which they will control 55-45.
Pelosi, of California, was flanked by more than 60 current and newly elected female House members as she announced her decision.
Also today, Senate Democrats re-elected Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada for the next Congress, Senate Republicans kept Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as minority leader, and House Republicans reaffirmed John Boehner of Ohio as speaker. House Democrats plan their formal leadership votes after Thanksgiving.
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said there was loud applause in the private caucus meeting in Washington when Pelosi said she would stay as Democratic leader.
“I am delighted Nancy Pelosi decided to stay,” California Democrat Henry Waxman told reporters. A House member since 1975, Waxman called her “the most effective speaker” under whom he has served.
Pelosi, 72, became minority leader after the 2002 election, serving in that position from 2003 until 2007. She became speaker after her party won control of the House in the 2006 election. She lost the post to Boehner after Republicans gained 63 seats in the 2010 election.
As speaker Pelosi shepherded Obama’s health-care law through the House toward enactment by Congress in 2010. She also pushed through the House a measure to curb pollution that causes climate change, legislation that died in the Senate.
Paul Lindsay, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, which works to elect the party’s candidates to the House, said in a statement, “There is no better person to preside over the most liberal House Democratic caucus in history than the woman who is solely responsible for relegating it to a prolonged minority status.”
“This decision signals that House Democrats have absolutely no interest in regaining the trust and confidence of the American people who took the speaker’s gavel away from Nancy Pelosi in the first place,” Lindsay said.
Pelosi said New York Representative Steve Israel would seek another term as chairman of the House Democratic campaign committee. Democrats said they were satisfied with the campaign effort by Pelosi and Israel.
“They did the best they could” after redistricting by 26 Republican-controlled state legislatures following the 2010 census hurt Democrats, said Representative Gene Green, a Texas Democrat.
The House Democratic leadership will be mostly unchanged, with the top contest being for the fifth-ranking slot.
In addition to McConnell, Senate Republicans elected John Cornyn of Texas as whip, John Thune of South Dakota as conference chairman, John Barrasso of Wyoming as policy committee chairman, and Roy Blunt of Missouri as conference vice chairman. Jerry Moran of Kansas will lead the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the caucus’s campaign group.
Among Senate Democrats, assistant majority leader Dick Durbin of Illinois, conference vice chairman Chuck Schumer of New York and conference secretary Patty Murray of Washington state were re-elected to their positions.
In addition to Boehner, House Republicans re-elected Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and whip Kevin McCarthy of California by voice vote.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington was chosen for the fourth-ranking job of conference chairwoman. Rodgers is currently the conference vice chairwoman and is the only woman among House Republican leaders.
She defeated Tom Price of Georgia. He was backed by Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, this year’s Republican vice presidential candidate, and current conference chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas.
Representative Lynn Jenkins of Kansas defeated Martha Roby of Alabama for the conference vice chairwoman post that Rodgers has held.