San Diego Union-Tribune
October 11, 2001
Calif.'s Pelosi now most powerful woman ever in Congress
Minority whip job big plus for state
By DANA WILKIE
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi yesterday became the most powerful woman in the history of Congress, winning a coveted spot among House leaders that will help her put women's concerns and California issues on the national radar.
By landing the post of Democratic whip, the San Francisco Democrat is now
second only to Minority Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri. Given the
right circumstances, she could one day become House speaker if her party
reclaims the House.
Emerging from a closed-door meeting where House Democrats cast secret
ballots, a beaming Pelosi said she would take the whip's job "with great
humility, but great confidence."
"I stand here as an experienced legislator, a skilled politician, a longtime
organizer," said the 61-year-old Pelosi, who vowed "constant, bold
experimentation" as she helps Democrats advance their priorities in the House and pursue a majority of seats in next year's election.
The whip -- a title that conveys the image of someone cracking a whip to
keep people in line -- counts and delivers the votes of party members. But the whip also has considerable influence over which issues get attention in a body with many competing interests.
The job, which Pelosi takes Jan. 15, positions her to send home millions of
federal dollars for California projects and to lobby for California's interests on such issues as the environment, energy policy and military base closings.
Should Democrats win a majority -- and should Gephardt step down from his job to run for president in 2004 -- Pelosi would be the first woman ever to be a serious contender for House speaker.
If Democrats win back the House next year, Pelosi would be the leading
choice as majority leader.
The current whip, Rep. David Bonior, is leaving Congress to run for Michigan governor.
Pelosi tried yesterday to downplay somewhat the historic nature of her win --
she is also the first Californian to hold a No. 2 leadership spot -- but she
acknowledged that in the male-dominated Congress, "this is difficult turf to
"For a woman, breaking ground here, it was a tough battle and ... we made
history" she said. "Now we have to make progress."
Pelosi beat out Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland for the whip job. The vote
Rep. Howard Berman, a Los Angeles Democrat, called it "invaluable" for
California that Pelosi is now among House leaders.
"It means that in high congressional meetings in the White House, we'll have a
Californian there," he said. "We won't just be a forceful pressure because of
our votes, but we'll have an internal voice."
California has the largest House delegation with 52 seats, which will grow to
53 in 2003 with the redrawing of congressional districts.
As the ranking member on the House Select Intelligence Committee, Pelosi is
now even better positioned to influence House action on President Bush's war against terrorism. She indicated yesterday she is willing to send billions in
federal money to New York, where the World Trade Center was destroyed
in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Raised in a prominent Maryland political family and now a 14-year-veteran of Congress, Pelosi has used her spot on the powerful House Appropriations
Committee to win considerable money for AIDS research and for the
National Institutes of Health. She has worked on behalf of human rights in
China and has criticized the U.S. open trade policy with China. She is a
former finance director for the California Democratic Party, which last year
raised more than $4 million for House Democratic candidates.