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Pelosi Makes History as New Democratic Whip

On October 10, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was elected the next Minority Whip, elevating her to the highest leadership position ever held by a woman in Congress.

After a long and hard-fought campaign, Rep. Pelosi defeated, 118-95, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), in a vote that Democratic lawmakers held behind closed doors. She will take over her official duties as whip on January 15 when Rep. David Bonior (D-MI) will step down to run for governor of Michigan.

“We made history, now we have to make progress. That’s what electing a woman is all about,” declared Rep. Pelosi at a press conference after the election. “I accept this responsibility with great humility and with great confidence,” she said, and added, “This is difficult turf to win on for anyone, but for a woman breaking ground here, it was a tough battle.”

She praised her colleagues and promised to “exploit the talents of this Democratic Caucus.” She told reporters that the “top priority of this whip office will be the economy” as well as “the concerns of working families.” Expressing support for the President “at this difficult time,” she pledged “to work with my colleagues on an agenda that will meet the needs of the American people.”

Rep. Hoyer expressed “disappointment” in failing to get the majority of votes from the caucus. He called Rep. Pelosi “one of the most energetic Members of Congress” who has “articulated the concerns of our party” and will “address the issues on which our party stands.” He also said that she has been his friend “for almost 40 years,” and that “she will do an outstanding job as our whip.”

In her new job, Rep. Pelosi will be deputy to Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-MO) and will be a national spokesperson on issues before Congress. She will be in charge of polling other members of her party about upcoming legislation, building a consensus among Members to make sure that the legislation has strong support, and maintaining party discipline on important floor votes. Additionally, she would have the opportunity to become Speaker of the House if the Democrats were to regain control of the House, and Rep. Gephardt relinquishes his seat to run for President.

Women in the 107th Congress hold several leadership positions. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) is Secretary of the Democratic Conference. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) was appointed Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was appointed Chief Deputy for Strategic Outreach. Additionally, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) is Secretary of the Republican Conference. On the House side, Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH) is Vice Chair of the Republican Conference, and Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) is Conference Secretary. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) is the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) is Assistant to the Democratic Leader, and Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) is Chief Deputy Whip.

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