March 26, 1940 (age 72)
First female Speaker of the House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi is a Democratic Party politician who has represented California’s 8th congressional district, of which four-fifth of San Francisco are a part, since 1987. She is currently the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, a position she has held since 2011. From 2007 to 2011, she was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, becoming the first woman in history to hold the Speakership. This made her the highest ranking female politician in American history.
Pelosi is a political progressive and a founding member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. She has pushed a diplomatic approach to foreign conflicts, and she opposed to the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. Pelosi is socially progressive as well, serving as an advocate for the LGBT community as well as a supporter of universal health care coverage. She is an economic liberal.
Early life and career
Nancy Patricia D’Alesandro was born on March 26, 1940 in Baltimore Maryland. She was born to Annunciata and Thomas D’Alesandro, who had five other children at the time. Her father was a Democratic Party politician who served as a Maryland Congressman and the Mayor of Baltimore. She attended high school at the Institute of Notre Dame and graduated from Trinity College with a degree in political science.
Pelosi became involved in politics early in her life, including being present at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy in 1961. Wh from Trinity College, she worked as an intern for Senator Daniel Brewster, as did her future Congressional colleague Stenny Hoyer. During this time, she married Paul Pelosi in 1963 and moved to New York, and eventually to San Francisco in 1969. She became more involved in Democratic politics, and she was elected as a member of the Democratic National Committee in 1976. She became the party chairperson for Northern California in 1977, and then for the California Democratic Party from 1981 to 1983.
As she worked her way up the chain of Democratic politics, she became the Finance Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in 1985, and unsuccessfully campaigned to become the chairperson of the Democratic National Committee.
Member of the House of Representatives (1987-present)
In 1986, after Congresswoman Sala Burton chose not to run for a new term as the representative for California’s 5th congressional district, Pelosi chose to run for the Congressional seat. She was supported from the beginning by Burton, which aided Pelosi’s efforts in campaigning. Pelosi was elected in a special election to succeed Burton, beating her Republican opponent by over a 30 percent margin, and took office in June 1987.
Electorally, Pelosi has been easily elected in every bi-annual election. Her closest election was in 2008 when she faced a challenge from anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, an independent, where the result was 71.9% for Pelosi and 16.2% for Sheehan. Her general electoral average is 75% of the vote. Her safe seat means she does not have to expend campaign funds for herself, making her one of the highest Congressional contributors to other Congressional campaigns.
Early house leadership
Pelosi served on the House Appropriations and Intelligence Committees, and her earliest notable leadership role was as the highest ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee. She served in this position until 2001, when she was elected as House Majority Whip, becoming the first woman in American history to hold the post. In 2002, House Minority Leaders Dick Gephardt resigned from his leadership position to campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2004 presidential election. As the next highest ranking Democrat, Pelosi was elected to replace him. She became the first woman in American history to lead one of the two parties in the House of Representatives.
Speaker of the House
During the 2006 midterm elections, it was predicted that the Democratic Party would take control of Congress due to public opposition to policies enacted by the Republican majority and President George W. Bush. The Democrats ultimately took control of both the House and the Senate in November 2006. As the highest ranking Democrat, Pelosi was chosen as her party’s candidate for Speaker of the House for the 110th Congress, a post she was elected to by the full House of Representatives. This made her the first woman to hold the position, as well as the highest ranking female politician in American history. This historic moment was commemorated by President Bush in his 2007 State of the Union address when he acknowledged, “Tonight, I have a high privilege and distinct honor of my own—as the first President to begin the State of the Union message with these words: Madam Speaker.”
As Speaker, Pelosi opposed the partial Social Security privatization reform advocated by President Bush, and the reform effort failed to pass Congress. While she did oppose Bush on many major issues, including the War in Iraq, she was steadfastly opposed to members of the Democratic caucus proposing articles of impeachment against the President; they alleged that Bush lied to Congress by saying that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, whereas no weapons were found, and that he had violated Americans’ civil rights by maintaining a program of warrantless wiretapping on American phones. Instead of impeachment, Pelosi instead maintained that a Democratic majority would have strong oversight over the Bush administration. It was Pelosi’s opposition to impeachment proceedings that led to the electoral challenge from Cindy Sheehan in 2008.
During the 2008 Presidential election, then-Senator Barack Obama was elected to the White House, giving Democrats full control over the legislative and executive branches of government. After the 2009 inauguration, Pelosi helped push President Obama’s policies through Congress. Such policies included the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which served as a fiscal stimulus to prevent further declines in the economy during the late-2000s recession; the Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which served as a reform of the American financial system; and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the largest health care reform in over four decades. Major legislation that failed to pass Congress included the American Clean Energy and Security Act. This emissions trading legislation passed the House of Representatives, but it ultimately did not pass the Senate and, therefore, could not be signed into law by President Obama.
In 2010, due to apprehension and opposition to Democratic policies and a perception amongst the electorate that the economy was not improving at a fast enough rate, the Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans. Pelosi was succeeded as speaker by Representative John Boehner, a Republican of Ohio who had served as House Minority Leader during Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker. Although Steny Hoyer had been the House Majority Leader during the Democratic majority, Pelosi successfully ran for House Minority Leader, a position she continues to serve in to this day.
In 2011, Pelosi and other members of Congress became involved in a scandal alleging that they practiced insider trading—insider trading is when one uses inside information not otherwise available to the public to give them an advantage in the stock market—by using information learned during closed Congressional sessions. Pelosi was alleged to have purchased stock in Visa while using information about a bill relating to credit card fees was being considered by the House, an allegation that she denounced as a Republican smear tactic.
Pelosi and her husband live in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco. Together, they have give grown children: Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul, and Alexandra. They also have eight grandchildren. She is estimated to be one of the richest members of Congress with a projected net worth of nearly $58 million. Much of this comes from real estate assets in the Bay Area, as well as a vineyard she and her husband own in St. Helena, California. They also own stock in Apple, and Paul is the owner of the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the United Football League.
Pelosi is actively involved in the Italian-American community. She is a board member of the National Organization of Italian Women, and she previously served as a member of the board on the National Italian American Foundations. She received that organization’s Special Achievement Award for Public Advocacy in 2007 for her public role in the community.
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