Nancy Pelosi was re-elected for the 8th District in San Francisco on November 8th 2006. Pelosi polled over 80% of the votes cast and won the district overwhelmingly. Nancy Pelosi is now Speaker-in-waiting for the House of Representatives, a position she will take up in January 2007. She has gained the highest elected political position for a woman in American history and traditionally, after the president and vice-president, the Speaker is considered the third most important political position in America. Pelosi and the House could now determine whether George W Bush’s final two years in office will be two years as a lame duck president or whether they can both work together in a constructive manner. George Bush has described Nancy Pelosi as “gracious”. In the past, Pelosi has described the president as “incompetent”.
As Speaker of the House, Mrs Pelosi will be able to drive legislation and the Democrats will have a significant impact on who chairs which committees in the House. When the victories for the Democrats in the House were announced, Mrs Pelosi said:
“This is a great victory for the American people. Tonight the American people have voted for change and they have voted for the Democrats to take our country in a new direction. We will do so working together with the administration and the Republicans in Congress in partnership, not in partisanship.”
Mrs Pelosi has already given a strong hint as to what will happen from January 2007 on. In the first 100 hours of the new Congress, she aims for the Democrat-controlled House to pass popular legislation that the president will find difficult to veto – though, in theory he could. She has already stated that she will push for an increase in the minimum wage; she will seek to end the restrictions on federal funding for stem cell research; college tuition fees will be tax deductible and the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission will be implemented. A Democrat-controlled Senate will almost certainly support such measures.
These measures, if voted through by Congress, will push the president into a corner. If he signs them into being, they will still have a Democrat fingerprint on them and as such could do a great deal for the party in the run-up to the 2008 presidential campaign. If he vetoes some or all of these popular measures, the blame will stick with him and potentially the Republican Party. The impact on their 2008 campaign could be very negative. However, in six years, President Bush has only used his veto once.
Mrs Pelosi has stated that under her stewardship “We will restore civility, integrity, and fiscal responsibility to the House of Representatives.” The issue of responsibility and integrity will also apparently be directed at the Bush administration. There could well be congressional inquiries into issues such as military spending in Iraq and the award of contracts for the re-building of Iraq. The issue of who got what contracts will also be examined for the re-building of New Orleans, post Hurricane Katrina.
Nancy Pelosi was voted as the Democrats House leader in 2002 and she has been a House member since 1987. As Democrat leader in the House she has been responsible for party legislative strategy. Pelosi was also a party whip for a year so her ability to control the party within the House should be good. She has served on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (her ten years on this committee is the longest for any House member). After 9/11, Mrs Pelosi led the Congressional review of the nation’s intelligence and security agencies. Mrs Pelosi has also served on the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (Ethics) and the Banking and Financial Services Committee.
With such a background, Mrs Pelosi is likely to have a major impact on American politics in the build up to 2008. However, once a honeymoon period is over at the start of the new Congress, Mrs Pelosi will face issues that are more likely to divide her party in the House. Abortion, tax cuts and immigration policies are just three of the more contentious issues she will have to manage. These are likely to be issues that may be covered much nearer the 2008 presidential race – and a seemingly divided Democrat Party on such issues may be just the Achilles Heel that the Republicans, after their midterm jolt, can exploit.