Pelosi to Make History as First Woman Speaker of the House

ByABC News via logo

Nov. 8, 2006 — -- Now that her party has gained control of the House, Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will become the first-ever woman speaker of the House.

"Today the American people voted for change, and they voted for Democrats to take our country in a new direction," Pelosi told a victory rally. "That's exactly what we intend to do."

ABC News learned this morning that President Bush called Nancy Pelosi today and congratulated her. She reportedly told him she looks forward to working together in a bipartisan fashion. On the call, the president extended a lunch invitation to Pelosi. They are scheduled to dine together at the White House on Thursday.

Pelosi told ABC News before the election that she believed she would be able to work with Bush if she became Speaker of the House, despite their disagreements.

"I respect the office of the president of the United States," she said. "As Speaker of the House -- if the Democrats win the House -- I would have a responsibility to work with the president."

She insisted her tone would soften as speaker, and she has made one outright pledge if the Democrats won. "We have taken impeachment off the table," she said. "Impeachment takes Republicans off the hook."

A savior to Democrats, Pelosi is a huge fundraiser -- third only to the Clintons.

Married to successful investor Paul Pelosi, Nancy Pelosi was estimated by Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call to be worth more than $14 million. She has been ranked in the top 20 richest members of Congress for two years running.

Heavily invested in real estate, the Pelosis are estimated to have holdings worth more than $12 million, including a $5 million to $25 million vineyard in St. Helena, Calif., the paper reported in September.

"But nonetheless, Capitol Hill is--is still very much a male-oriented old boys club. So for her to have risen to be the leader … of the party, I think is a rather phenomenal accomplishment," Pelosi's husband said in an interview last year.

Pelosi is not well-known, unless you've seen the Republicans' ads. During this midterm election, Republicans seemed determined to make her name radioactive.

The war of words between Pelosi and President Bush over the Iraq conflict and other issues seemed to grow increasingly personal.

"The speaker of the House, the congresswoman, would be someone who thinks capturing Osama bin Laden wouldn't make this country safer," Bush has said.

One Georgia political advertisement referred to her as a "liberal San Francisco congresswoman."

But the barbs don't bother Pelosi.

"I couldn't care less," she told ABC News before the election. "I think it shows how desperate the Republicans are, that they have to have the president of the United States become their political hit man. … I really think it's a compliment to the effectiveness that I have."

Pelosi is especially combative on Iraq, a war she voted against. She insists the troops should start coming home. She disagrees with those who say that now is not the time to pull the troops out.

"There are a range of experts who say the reverse. This war in Iraq is just getting worse," she said. "President Bush is digging a hole deeper and deeper and deeper in Iraq. He's so far from daylight he doesn't have a clue."

When asked if she believes she's been tough on Bush lately, she said, "Oh, that wasn't tough."

As for her image, Pelosi and her aides like to emphasize her personal side. She is a mother of five and grandmother of five, with another grandchild on the way.

One of her children, Alexandra Pelosi, made a splash in 2002 with her HBO documentary, "Journeys With George," which chronicled George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential election bid. Her follow-up, "Diary of a Political Tourist," followed politicians on the other side of the aisle as Democrats tried to snare the top spot as the party's candidate for President.

Whatever the GOP thinks of her, Pelosi has brought an almost Republican-style order to the Democrats.

Under her leadership, they've voted lock step against Republicans nearly 90 percent of the time.

It was Pelosi's strategy to focus on attack instead of the Democratic agenda.

In the final days before Election Day as she tried to lock down a victory, Pelosi made no apologies for her policy.

"There's nothing like winning," she said. "Absolutely nothing like winning. Because winning gives you the opportunity."

Before the election, Pelosi spent most of her time politicking behind the scenes rather than attending public rallies. Pelosi and her party realize that her reputation can polarize.

Yet with every step, the crowds were never far behind. So when Pelosi goes to sleep at night does she ever fantasize for a moment about the title: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi?

"No, I never do," she said before the election. "What I think about before I go to sleep at night is how we can get up to 15 new Democratic seats in the Congress of the U.S., and then I say my prayers."

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