National Commentary

Helen Thomas: Pelosi In Line To Be Speaker

WASHINGTON — If the Democrats win control of the House in the Nov. 7 mid-term elections, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would likely be the first woman in U.S. history to become speaker of the House.

The holder of that post is number two in the line of succession for the presidency, right behind the vice president.

Democrats need to win 15 seats to gain control of the House from the Republicans who have been in the majority since 1994. If they win, some Democrats have been hinting that they would use their new powers to launch some edgy investigations of the reasons for the senseless Iraq war and war-time profiteering.

But Pelosi has said that is not her intention.

Pelosi voted for the congressional resolution in September 2001 that gave the go-ahead for the U.S. to attack Afghanistan in the aftermath of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

But she voted against the resolution adopted in October 2002 that authorized the invasion of Iraq. Pelosi also led 50 of her cohorts to do the same on grounds that there was no intelligence to back up the administration’s claim of a threat from Iraq.

Pelosi, a San Francisco liberal, hails from a political family. Her father, Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. served five terms in Congress and was a long-time popular mayor in Baltimore.

Pelosi has toughened up in her job as Democratic leader in the House. She is politically savvy and has played her cards well despite competition from some of her male peers. She also has learned to crack the whip to get the party membership to toe the line.

If she becomes House speaker, Pelosi knows she will be put to the test and compared with the men who served in that powerful role on Capitol Hill. But she feels up to the challenge.

"I think the fact that I am a woman will raise expectations in terms of more hope in government and I will not disappoint," she said in a Los Angeles Times interview last week.

She has displayed her political prowess in fundraising, pulling in some $100 million for congressional candidates.

She also has been a leading advocate on health issues.

Pelosi has some detractors from old political feuds. Among them is Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who is still smarting over the fact that Pelosi defeated him for the job of party leader.

And there is no love lost between her and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. The New York Times has reported that Pelosi may deny Harman — a moderate Democrat — the chairmanship of that panel (if Democrats win control of the House) because she believes her fellow Californian failed to challenge the Bush administration on its faulty pre-war intelligence and went along with his secret domestic eavesdropping program without a warrant.

If she is elected House speaker, Pelosi plans to push for a hike in the $5.15 minimum wage, tax deductions for college tuitions, cuts in student-loan interest rates and an end to subsidies for big oil. She’s also flatly opposed to privatization of Social Security.


(c) 2006 Hearst Newspapers