Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, from California's 8th Congressional District
Became Speaker of the House in January 2007
Member of the Progressive Caucus
Attacked the War in Iraq on the day Baghdad was liberated because it was “too costly.”
Nancy Pelosi was born in March 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland, the youngest of six children. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., served as both a U.S. congressman in Maryland and as the mayor of Baltimore.
In 1962 Pelosi graduated from Trinity College in Washington, DC, and then interned for Maryland's Democratic senator Daniel Brewster before moving, with her husband, to San Francisco in 1969.
Following her relocation, Pelosi became increasingly involved in politics. In 1977 she was elected Democratic Party chairwoman for northern California. Around that time, she befriended Phillip Burton, the Democrat congressman representing California’s Eighth District (which includes most of San Francisco). When Burton died in 1983, his wife, Sala, succeeded him in office. Three years later she was diagnosed with cancer and chose Pelosi to be her successor within the party, thereby assuring Pelosi the backing of the Burtons’ political allies.
Mrs. Burton died on February 1, 1987, just a month after she had begun her second full term in office. In a special election to determine who would fill Burton's now-empty House seat, Pelosi narrowly defeated San Francisco supervisor Harry Britt and took office on June 2, 1987. Since then, she has been re-elected every two years.
In 2001 Pelosi became House Minority Whip. The following year, she was named Democratic Leader of the House of Representatives, thereby becoming the first woman in American history to lead a major party in the U.S. Congress. After the landslide Democrat victories in the November 2006 mid-term elections, Pelosi was elected Speaker of the House.
In January 2007, after President Bush had announced his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq in an effort to stem the violence there, Pelosi, along with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, condemned the plan: "Adding more combat troops will only endanger more Americans and stretch our military to the breaking point for no strategic gain." Instead, Pelosi called for "the phased redeployment of our forces in the next four to six months."
Contrary to Pelosi's prediction, the troop surge proved to be immensely successful. Nonetheless, in February 2008 Pelosi declared the surge a “failure” that had “not produced the desired effect.”
In April 2008 Pelosi traveled to Damascus to discuss foreign policy issues with Syrian President Bashar Assad. She made this trip against the wishes of President Bush, who said that it sent "mixed messages" and undermined U.S. policy vis a vis what he called
"a state sponsor of terror." Former State Department official Robert F. Turner saw Pelosi's Damascus trip as a felonious violation of the Logan Act of 1798, which calls for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American who, "without authority of the United States," tries to influence a foreign government's behavior as regards any "disputes or controversies with the United States."
After her trip to Syria, Pelosi told reporters: "[Our] meeting with the president [Assad] enabled us to communicate a message from [Israeli] Prime Minister Olmert that Israel was ready to engage in peace talks as well." But in fact, Olmert had conveyed no such sentiment. Israel's position remained what it always had been: its participation in peace talks with Syria was contingent upon the latter ending its support for terrorism.
In July 2008 Pelosi characterized President Bush as “a total failure” who had lost “all credibility with the American people on the war, on the economy, on energy, [and any other issue].”
In April 2009, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), a non-partisan government watchdog group, named Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as its 2008 “Porkers of the Year” because of what CAGW viewed as their consistent record of fiscal irresponsibility.
During the Bush administration, Pelosi characterized waterboarding -- an
enhanced-interrogation technique which the CIA had used on a handful of
high-value terrorist suspects -- as a form of torture that was wholly
unacceptable to use under any circumstances. Moreover, she called for
punitive action against those in the Bush
administration who had deemed waterboarding appropriate. But in May 2009 it was learned that the CIA had actually briefed Pelosi as early as September 2002 about its use of waterboarding, and that Pelosi had never previously raised any objection. Pelosi respond to those reports by accusing the CIA of "misleading the Congress of the United States." "They mislead us all the time," she said.
In December 2009 Pelosi led at least 20 members of Congress (and many of their spouses and children) on an all-expenses-paid trip to attend a global-warming summit in Copenhagen, Denmark. The delegation was so large, that three military jets were required to transport its members. A number of senators and staffers also made the trip, courtesy of taxpayer dollars, via commercial airliners, and many of them stayed at 5-star hotels in Copenhagen. Although Pelosi was personally responsible for deciding who went the summit, she subsequently refused to answer any reporters' questions regarding the cost of the trip.
According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, during 2008-2009 Pelosi incurred expenses of some $2.1 million for her use of Air Force jets for travel -- including $101,429 for in-flight expenses such as food and alcohol. She regularly used Air Force aircraft to travel to her district at an average cost of $28,210.51 per flight. Of 103 Pelosi-led congressional delegations during the two-year period, 31 trips included members of her family.
In January 2010, when Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid were leading the rancorous process by which Democrats were seeking to pass healthcare reform, Pelosi articulated her determination to enact the new legislation: “You go through the gate. If the gate’s closed, you go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we’ll pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we’ll parachute in. But we’re going to get health care reform passed for the American people.”
In March 2010, Pelosi stated that she wished to avoid a House vote on healthcare reform because the legislation would surely be defeated in that chamber. “Nobody wants to vote for the Senate bill,” she said. Thus she supported the so-called "Slaughter solution." Under this plan, the House would vote on a procedural motion, that is, the “rule” that is supposed to govern debate on a matter going before the House. In this case a “self-executing rule” would be used that would “deem” the Senate version of ObamaCare to have been passed. Thus lawmakers would be able to vote to approve the Senate version of the healthcare legislation -- complete with unpopular add-ons such as Senator Ben Nelson’s "Cornhusker Kickback" and Senator Mary Landrieu’s "Louisiana Purchase" -- and then be able to tell their constituents that technically all they had done was approve a procedural motion.
Also in March 2010, Pelosi told the American public that healthcare reform would "be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy."
That same month, Pelosi made reference to the fact that the healthcare bill she was seeking to pass was merely the first phase of a larger effort to bring about ever-greater government control over the American medical system: "My biggest fight has been between those who wanted to do something incremental and those who wanted to do something comprehensive. We won that fight, and once we kick through this door, there'll be more legislation to follow."
In May 2010, Pelosi said the healthcare legislation was "an entrepreneurial bill, a bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care.”
At the Catholic Community Conference on Capitol Hill on May 6, 2010, Pelosi said that she had told Catholic cardinals, archbishops, and bishops to speak about the importance of comprehensive "immigration reform" from their pulpits, and to tell their parishioners that "this is a manifestation of our living the gospels." At the same event, Pelosi suggested that her religious beliefs influenced her public policy decisions on issues such as immigration: "My favorite word is the Word, is the Word.... And ... we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word.
July 2010, Pelosi stated
that unemployemt insurance “is one of the biggest stimuluses to the
economy.” “Economists will tell you,” she continued, “this
money is spent quickly. It injects demand into the economy and is
job-creating. It creates jobs faster than almost any other initiative
you can name, because again, it is money that is needed for families
to survive, and it is spent. So it has a double benefit. It helps
those who've lost their jobs, but it also is a job creator.” Pelosi would reiterate these themes in December 2011.
In August 2010, Pelosi spoke out in favor of Faisal Abdul Rauf's Cordoba Initiative, a project to build a 13-story, $100 million Islamic Center just 600 feet from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Criticizing opponents of the project, Pelosi said: "There is no question that there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded [and] ginned up."
On May 3, 2011, after it was announced that U.S. Navy SEALs has located and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, Pelosi said the following:
"The death of Osama bin Laden marks the most significant development in our fight against al-Qaeda.... I salute President Obama, his national security team, Director Panetta, our men and women in the intelligence community and military, and other nations who supported this effort for their leadership in achieving this major accomplishment.... [T]he death of Osama bin Laden is historic...."
Those remarks were a stark contrast to what Pelosi had said on September 7, 2006, when she derided President George W. Bush for allegedly having become distracted from the goal of finding bin Laden:
"[E]ven if [Osama bin Laden] is caught tomorrow, it is five years too late. He has done more damage the longer he has been out there. But, in fact, the damage that he has done, is done. And even to capture him now I don’t think makes us any safer."
In October 2011, Pelosi expressed support for the anti-capitalist Occupy Wall Street movement which was spreading to numerous cities across the United States. Said Pelosi:
" "God bless them for their spontaneity. It's independent ... it's young, it's spontaneous, and it's focused. And it's going to be effective.... The message of the protesters is a message for the establishment everyplace. No longer will the recklessness of some on Wall Street cause massive joblessness on Main Street."
In January 2013, Pelosi appointed Nadaem Elshami, her longtime communications director, to be her chief of staff. Elshami formerly worked for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and socialist Representative Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). Elshami’s Egyptian mother, Zainab Elberry, is a Tennessee-based Muslim activist who lobbied for construction of a mega-mosque in
Murfreesboro, Tennessee; supported the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak; and helped organize the radical Islamic Center of Nashville.
In a February 10, 2013 television interview, Pelosi said it would be wrong for the federal government to cut funding for such items as education, science, and food safety. She characterized America's budget deficit "isn't so much a spending problem as it is a priorities [problem]" -- i.e., the items on which tax dollars are spent. In the same interview, she said it is "almost a false argument to say we have a spending problem"; rather, she explained, there was "a government deficit problem" -- the implication being that additional tax revenues were needed. The following day, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked whether President Obama agreed with Pelosi's assertion. Carney replied, "Of course, the president believes that we have a spending problem," adding that the problem was "specifically driven" by health care spending.
In March 2013, Pelosi categorized tax breaks for businesses as forms of "spending" that needed to be cut:
"Tax cuts are spending. Our whole budget is what, $3.5 trillion? So, when we talk about reducing spending, we certainly must, and we certainly have--$1.6 trillion in the previous Congress, $1.2 of it in the Budget Control Act. But spending is subsidies for big oil, subsidies to send jobs overseas, breaks to send jobs overseas, breaks for corporate jets. They are called tax expenditures. Spending money on tax breaks. And that’s the spending that we must curtail as well."
At a June 6, 2013 press conference, Pelosi responded to news reports that, contrary to earlier claims by Barack Obama and Pelosi herself, Obamacare would cause health insurance premiums to rise dramatically for many people purchasing their own insurance in the individual market: "I don't remember saying that everybody in the country would have a lower premium." But in fact, during a on July 1, 2012 appearance on Meet The Press, Pelosi had stated that because of Obamacare "everybody will have lower rates."
Pelosi is a member of the socialist-leaning Congressional Progressive Caucus, to whose executive committee she was named in 2002. For an overview of Pelosi’s policy positions and voting record on key
pieces of legislation during her years in the House of Representatives, click here.
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