House Leader Nancy Pelosi announced to her caucus Wednesday morning that she will continue to serve as minority leader in the upcoming session of Congress.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Pelosi noted the huge impact women voters had on the outcome of the 2012 election:
Yesterday, when we gathered here, I began my comments standing here with our new Members of Congress by saying, ‘a picture it worth a thousand words.’ … I said then, and I say now, that this picture before you is worth millions of votes. Millions of votes. Millions of women’s votes that it took to reelect President Barack Obama. Millions of women’s votes who helped us elect a record number of women to the Congress of the United States. As you look forward, understand that you are looking into the future, the future of empowerment of women in America.
Pelosi continued, outlining the significant political strides women have made since she was first elected to Congress in 1987:
When I came to Congress 25 years ago, there were about 23 Members of Congress who were women out of 435. Just think of that. Twelve Democrats, 11 Republicans, something like that. Today, we have over 60 House Democratic women. Very good … [but] not enough. We want more.
With Pelosi’s continued presence as House leader, we can expect that women will consistently be at the forefront of her agenda. She has been essential in passing key legislation for women, including being a major force behind the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, calling the legislation “of the highest priority” for Congress and emphasizing that fair pay legislation is “critical not only for women and families, but also for the economic security of our nation.” We need Pelosi’s leadership to seek further pay-equity legislation to close the persistent gender wage gap.
Pelosi was also instrumental in revamping the nation’s health-care insurance system, making it one of her top priorities because, as she announced on the House floor during final arguments on the health-care bill in 2010, “It’s personal for women.” Says Feminist Majority president Eleanor Smeal:
She is a feminist and she is for women’s rights unequivocally. She made sure the health-care bill ended blatant discrimination on the basis of sex; she made sure it covers maternity benefits and eliminates charging more for women’s health insurance.
Pelosi noted in Wednesday’s press conference that she will continue to “make sure our Affordable Care Act is enforced in a way that no longer will being a woman be a preexisting medical condition.”
Though House Democrats failed to win the 25 seats necessary to become the majority party, the party has brought great diversity to the House. For the first time, women and minority members will outnumber their white men counterparts: The caucus will be comprised of 61 women, 26 Latinos, 11 Asians, five out gays, one out bisexual and 43 black representatives.
As the first woman Speaker of the House in U.S. history (and considered by some to be the most effective House Speaker to date), Pelosi’s continued presence in Congress represents an ongoing effort to achieve gender equality both in and out of the political realm. As New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney noted after the press conference, “She’s been a trailblazer for the nation, for the party and for women, and she will continue blazing trails.”
Photo of Nancy Pelosi via Wikimedia Commons licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.