Nancy Pelosi Ousted as House Speaker, John Boehner Waits in Wings

Republican control of the U.S. House means end to Nancy Pelosi's historic reign.

November 02, 2010, 2:46 PM

Nov. 3, 2010— -- In his 2007 State of the Union address just days after voters handed control of the House to the Democrats, President George W. Bush graciously introduced the country to Rep. Nancy Pelosi -- the first woman Speaker of the U.S. House.

Pelosi, known as much for her hardball tactics as she was for her tailored suits, beamed with pride as she stood before Congress to acknowledge the applause and her position as the highest-ranking woman in American politics.

Nearly four years later, there is little for Pelosi to smile about. For months, Republicans have spoken her name as if it were a curse word, while some Democrats asked her to steer clear of their campaigns.

A historic Republican landslide Tuesday now means Pelosi will soon be stripped of the power that has defined her historic tenure.

"The outcome of the election does not diminish the work we have done for the American people," Pelosi said in a statement after the midterm outcome was clear. "We must all strive to find common ground to support the middle class, create jobs, reduce the deficit and move our nation forward."

Watch Speaker Pelosi's post-election interview with Diane Sawyer tonight on "World News."

Pelosi won reelection to a 12th consecutive term Tuesday night in her San Francisco district where she remains highly popular. But come January, she will hand over the speaker's gavel to a Republican, likely to be Ohio Rep. John Boehner.

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Boehner, 60, famously tells audiences that he is one of 12 children who did every did job that was needed in the Ohio bar that his father owned.

"I've spent my whole life chasing the American Dream," a joyfully tearful Boehner told supporters Tuesday night. "I poured my heart and soul into a small business. And when I saw how out-of-touch Washington had become with the core values of this great nation, I put my name forward and ran for office."

Pelosi Defends Record as Speaker

The former president of a plastics company, Boehner was first elected to Congress in 1991 and has been the House Minority Leader since 2007. He has made a name for himself as one of the most high-profile and spirited rhetorical opponents of Pelosi and President Obama over the past two years.

He's slammed "Nancy Pelosi's one-party rule" in the lead up to passage of Democrats' health care overhaul, ripped the Obama administration's economic recovery plan as a "job-killing agenda," and chided the Democrats from the floor of the House saying, "Shame on you. Shame."

If elected speaker, Boehner would face a new challenge of keeping in check a scrappy caucus of Republican members that will include political rookies and Tea Party favorites. He is also under pressure to convince the disaffected voters that restored his party to power that Republicans can make progress on improving the economy and ending the partisanship that's stained Congress.

"Our now job is to listen to the people and follow the will of the American people," Boehner told reporters this morning. "It's pretty clear the American people want us to do something about cutting spending here in Washington, and helping to create an environment where we'll get jobs back in our country. We've got a big job ahead of us and that's why you'll see us roll up our sleeves and go to work today."

Boehner's promise that Republicans will vigorously pursue reforms, improve transparency and work to break through the partisan gridlock echo promises Pelosi made in 2007 when she assumed control of the House.

Pelosi can point to an impressive and controversial list of legislative achievements including an unprecedented economic stimulus package, landmark health care bill and an overhaul of the financial system.

But Americans' frustration with the slow pace of economic recovery and skyrocketing federal deficits – and disillusionment with the ethics scandals and political mudslinging that have plagued the 110th Congress – has been largely projected on the Democratic Party and its leadership, including Pelosi.

Her diminished popularity was evident throughout the 2010 campaign, from the Republicans' nationwide "Fire Pelosi" bus tour to embattled Democrats' attempts to distance themselves from her.

Pelosi raised more than $50 million for the Democrats' reelection efforts this cycle, according to her press office, holding 194 political events in 24 states. But she largely stayed clear of the spotlight, absent from Democrats' political ads and rarely sharing the stage with members she endorsed.

When Pelosi became Speaker in 2007, 46 percent of Americans viewed her favorably. Today only 29 percent still hold that view, according to the most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Speaker Pelosi Prepares to Exit Her Post

Many moderates also grew to dislike Pelosi's thumb-in-the-eye style of politics, exemplified by her occasional disregard for bipartisanship, notably with passage of health care reform.

"You strive for bipartisanship when you can. When you find your common ground, that's great. If you don't find your common ground, you have to stand your ground," she told ABC's Diane Sawyer earlier this year.

She's also faced scrutiny for a slew of high-profile ethics cases to hit members of the House Democratic caucus, including Reps. Charles Rangel and Maxine Waters.

"The most 'open, honest, ethical congress in history' has been a failure on all three fronts," Ken Spain, communications director at the National Republican Congressional Committee, told ABC News. "It's ironic that the Democratic majority that came in with such a bang four years ago is going out with a whimper behind closed doors."

Despite the criticism,Pelosi has persistently stood by her record as speaker.

"We [Democrats] are very proud of the agenda that we have put forth to the American people," she said in a recent interview with ABC News. "Our recovery package, as the economists have said, we've had twice as many people unemployed as there are now if we had not moved forward. These actions are all controversial because we were digging our way out of a deep ditch."

As Pelosi prepares to exit her post, so too will a number of congresswomen this year, marking perhaps the first time in 30 years fewer women will be in Congress after an election than the year before.

ABC News' John Parkinson contributed to this report.

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