News Column

Pelosi to Stay Top Democrat in House

Nov 14, 2012
Nancy Pelosi

U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi is to hold her position as a top Democratic leader in Congress as women boosted their stake on the national legislative scene.

Pelosi, 72, Wednesday cleared up any doubts that she would remain in charge of the minority Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives. She was confirmed at a closed-door meeting of the caucus, according to

Afterwards, surrounded by dozens of Democratic elected women, she saluted the role women played in re-electing President Barack Obama and the record success of women candidates in gaining a foothold in Congress.

When the new 535-member Congress convenes in January, there will be 98 women from both parties, or 18 percent: 78 women in the lower House of Representatives and 20 women in the Senate.

That percentage still falls short of the worldwide average, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which calculates that women held 20.2 percent of the world's 46,159 legislative seats in 2012. In Europe, that percentage rose to 23.4 percent.

"This picture before you is worth millions of votes ... that it took to re-elect Barack Obama," Pelosi said, referring to the 11-per-cent advantage Obama had among women voters over Republican Mitt Romney.

She called for women to take an increasing role not only in politics but also in industry, where she said fewer than 20 women are among the Fortune 500's list of top executives.

"If America is going to reach its full fulfilment as a nation, we must have full empowerment of women," Pelosi said.

According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University in New Jersey, the number of women in the House will rise from 73 to 78 in January, and in the senate from 17 to 20.

Broken down by party, 58 of the women in the House are Democrats and 16 of the new women senators are Democrats.

In 1920, passage of a constitutional amendment guaranteed U.S. women the right to vote, though many states had already granted sufferage for years.

The first woman in Congress was Jeannette Rankin, a Republican pacifist elected from Montana in 1916. She was reviled after joining a minority of 50 members who voted against entering World War I, and was defeated for a second term.

In 1940, Rankin was elected to Congress again, only to become the only vote against the declaration of war after the Japanese bombing of the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii. She did not seek re-election.

Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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