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Speaker Nancy Pelosi Addresses Her Future; Any Moment: Pelosi Announces Decision About Her Future; Pelosi: I Will Not Seek Reelection To Leadership. Aired 12-12:30p ET
Aired November 17, 2022 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to Inside Politics. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing a very important news day with us. The House speaker makes up her mind. In just moments, Nancy Pelosi unveils her next move as Republicans secure control of the House.
Plus, the new world of divided government. House Republicans claim a mandate to investigate Hunter Biden. And we have new CNN reporting on the Biden White House strategy to blunt new Republican investigations. And history in Los Angeles. Karen Bass will become the city's first woman mayor. She takes over a city exhausted by crime and overwhelmed with homelessness.
Up first for us though, a crossroads choice for Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party. She now knows she must give the speaker's gavel to Republicans come January. So, does she step aside? Or does she ask Democrats to keep her on as leader in the new minority? We will get the answer any moment now.
Speaker Pelosi will come to the House floor to reveal her decision. We know President Biden wants her to stay. We know many younger Democrats want new leaders. And we know Pelosi took two speeches home last night. One asking to stay as the Democratic leader. One saying, she is prepared now to step aside. Her place in history, you see her walking into the House right now. Her place in history is secure already. Let's listen.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): The House will be in order. The House will be in order. The prayer will be offered by our Chaplain Kibben.
MARGARET KIBBEN, CHAPLAIN, UNITED STATES HOUSE: Would you pray with me? Today, Oh God, we lay before you our petitions, prayers, intercessions and thanksgiving. We request that you bestow upon us the joy of your presence among us. That when we look upon the faces of those who labor in these halls, known and unknown, elected or employed, we may see your image.
We pray for the health and welfare of this illustrious body. That as the scenery changes, and the actors move on, around or off the stage, you will uphold each one. Guide them in the roles you have called them to fulfill and grant them wisdom to discern the way you would have them go. Lord may our prayers serve as an intercession for those who do not have enough courage or strength to speak their own needs. For those who haven't enough faith to trust what lies ahead. And for those who do not know how to receive the mercy you offer us. Then accept our offerings of Thanksgiving to you for the bounty you lay before us, the gift to labor to serve and contribute our energies wherever you call us. But especially here in this our nation's capital. May our words be good and pleasing to you as we pray them in your most holy name. Amen.
SPEAKER PELOSI: The chairs examined the journal of the last day's proceedings and announces to the House for approval thereof. Pursuant to clause one, rule one the journal stands approved. The pledge of allegiance will be led by the gentleman from South Carolina Mr. Wilson.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone, including our guests in the gallery, please join in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The chair will entertain up to 15 requests for one-minute speeches on each side of the aisle.
KING: Want to bring in our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju. As we watch this play out, Manu, the speaker presiding over the House right now. Her staff says in about five or six minutes she will go to the floor and deliver what is known as a one-minute speech on the floor.
The speaker of course has no clock running on the speaker. As we wait that we're watching other. This is the newly reelected and customer of the state of New Hampshire. As we wait for Speaker Pelosi to take the floor. Do we have any indications of what she plans to say?
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She has not tipped her hand one way or the other. In fact, in talking to Democrats all morning long, they really are in the dark just as much as anybody else. There is an expectation that this will be a farewell speech, but of course no one knows completely for sure.
Her sources say that she did bring home two versions of her speech last night to sort of keep people in the dark about what her future plans are. Of course, she had indicated that the brutal and vicious attack against her husband will affect her decision. She didn't say which way that would ultimately, would force her to go.
But remember, John, several years ago, she in order to secure the votes to become speaker, she indicated that 2020 to the end of this Congress will be her last time leading the Democratic caucus. And she has never formally shut the door, which is why this question is still open. And there have been some Democrats, including Joe Biden, who have encouraged her to stay.
There are also a number of Democrats who want a new generation are pushing for more - for a different representation among the top Democratic leaders. She of course, is dominated by the central figure for the past two decades. So, there is some push for that and already jumped behind the scenes, there is a leadership shift scramble taking place.
Hakeem Jeffries, the New York Democrat, someone who is a member of the Democratic leadership is seen as the front runner to replace her. I was told by the Congressional Black Caucus chairwoman earlier today that that powerful bloc of members plans to support Jeffries. If Speaker Pelosi does decide to step aside, but he, Jeffries could potentially face a challenge, including from Pelosi.
Number two, Steny Hoyer, and that could create a leadership fight ahead of the November 30 leadership elections. And John, if she were to step aside, a whole host of other members will look for other spots within the other ranks of leadership.
So, not only is this a profound moment for the Democratic Party, given the legacy that she has - that she has made over her time in office, 37 years representing San Francisco two decades as democratic leader, but it will have a whole host of implications down the line, if this is indeed the moment where she says, she will no longer leave this caucus.
KING: And Manu, as we wait, let me pose this question. If she decided she wanted to stay, despite the past indications that this would be it and she would be gone. Could she be, be? Or would she be elected later?
RAJU: I think there's a very good like the highlight here that she would stay and have the votes to stay, even though there would be some grumbling, particularly amongst some of the younger members, some of the members in more swing districts that will call for change. Because in order to become elected Democratic leader, you simply only need to have a majority of your caucus support. And there is no doubt that she would have, be able to lock down that amount of support.
It is different than becoming speaker of the House when you have a majority of the full House, which means you have to keep most of your caucus in line, especially particularly in the narrow majority that Republicans are going to likely have in the next Congress.
That's why Kevin McCarthy has his math issue as he runs into, trying to get the majority of the House to give him the speakership in January, but to get the majority of the Democratic caucus, if they have 208 or 209 seats, or maybe a few less, few more. That could getting half of that should not be an issue for Nancy Pelosi, but there will be some pushback within the ranks there. John?
KING: We'll watch this play. Manu, stay with us as we watch. These are so called one-minute speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives. We're watching the speaker of the House, who is presiding over the House at the moment that is a rare move. Most times, the speaker is only there on big days in the chair.
Let's bring the conversation in the room, with me to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Audie Cornish, Laura Barron-Lopez at the PBS NewsHour, and Julie Hirschfeld Davis of The New York Times.
This is a big moment anyway, because of the big transition here in Washington. But it's also a big moment because Nancy Pelosi will be in the history books, regardless of what she says right here. The first woman elected as a party leader in Congress. The first woman elected speaker of the House. Then back into the minority, and then back as speaker that she's presiding. Is that a clue that she wants to be up in the rostrum one more time with the gavel?
JULIE HIRSCHFELD DAVIS, CONGRESSIONAL EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I mean, it certainly has the feel of a valedictory here with, you know, all of her colleagues gathered on the floor, a standing ovation, you know, there's clearly a celebratory sort of atmosphere in there. But again, that doesn't necessarily tell you whether that means she's exiting gracefully, or she is going to stay in fight. She's kind of indicated a little bit of each in the last weeks.
But as you said, you know, she is the first woman speaker, no one will take that title away from her that place in history. And she has really presided over some very remarkable moments, you know, the passage of the Affordable Care Act, two impeachments happened under her watch.
You know, lots of legislative accomplishments for Democratic presidents that maybe would not have been able to get done if she hadn't been the speaker and she's had a bigger majority than it looks like Kevin McCarthy is going to probably have if he's the leader next year. But you know, some pretty tight squeezes on some of that legislation and that's going to be part of her legacy as well.
KING: And so, we can go through some of the legislative history, some of the showdowns with Trump, but some of the important issues in her career and we will do all that. I just want to note for the historical purposes, Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader, former member of the House has come over to be on the floor of the House at this moment. So, people in the building understand the importance of this small moment.
Let me with three accomplished female journalists at the table, talk about that. I mean she is an example and a trailblazer because she's in the history books for good reason. She organized. I was in Washington when it was completely dominated by white men. And she was in a House leadership that was completely dominated by House men, Republican and Democratic. And she organized and organized and fought and scratch and got - she heard what she got.
AUDIE CORNISH, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I mean, I think it's a measure of her legacy that I mean, given our ages, we can take for granted that we've only ever really seen a woman in power and kind of holding that gavel. And it's, you know, she's already in the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls. So, you're talking about the history book, that's already written. So, I think this moment really is very powerful. Whatever it looks like, this moment is going to be, I mean, her leading the prayer to me is a significant moment. She's always put her faith at the forefront, even when her detractors were kind of saying that's not something Democrats would do. I think she's always been a counterbalance to the strongest talking points from the Republican side.
KING: And there's a lot out in the country, you're watching. Many of you probably disgusted with politics, maybe some of you love the speaker, maybe some of you are Republicans who don't like the speaker. She loves the institution. That's why the insurrection day was so painful to her. And not just because of his attack on the government, an attack on democracy, but there was attack on the shrine of American democracy, a place if you go to visit her up there, she just - she knows every inch of the building, and she loves it.
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: She really does. She is very much, as you said, someone who protects the institution, so much so that some Democrats were actually not very happy when she took a very long time to even reach the point of saying that they should impeach the former president. She was long resisting that until they finally reach even the first one. So, and that's partly because of the fact that she takes moments like that very seriously.
She also, you know, one thing that I was texting with some members this morning, some of the House Democrats, and even now, even though a lot of them seem to want to see the next generation come forward, they still say that if she were to stick around, you know, that they would understand and that she would definitely probably have the votes to stick around. And they have long, you know, really just revered her even at times when they have thought that it was time for her to move on.
KING: And Manu Raja was still with us, I believe, right? Manu, we know, the president United States said, you know, I'd like you to stay. You can certainly understand that, in the last two years with a very modest House, Democratic majority. Speaker Pelosi has managed, even though progressives wanted more, and maybe centrist Democrats didn't like this piece. She has managed to get through significant portions of the Biden agenda, because she is so well organized and so well disciplined.
RAJU: Yes. No question about it. And that is the one thing that this is - why she has been such an effective speaker, regardless of what you look at the outcome. Of course, Republicans will say, they will criticize her legacy, criticize what she's pushed through. But she's been affected because she's been able to maintain unity and discipline in what has been incredibly, it was incredibly difficult to do.
Regardless of the caucus that you lead, Republicans, Democrats, House in the Senate, it is very hard to achieve unity, which is the moderate wing of your party, the progressive wing of your party are going at each other to have much different opinions about what to do, are concerned about their own political futures. Members from the swing districts trying to save their political hides, concerned about the direction that people on the left are going. She has been able to keep the caucuses, keep caucus together through much over time. This past Congress has been a real challenge for that. They had a difficult time trying to get the build back better bill through for instance, but they did pass that version of that in the House, they didn't pass in the Senate, they ended up passing the Inflation Reduction Act, which is also a significant achievement in and of itself.
But that has been the one reason why so many Democrats including Joe Biden, today, Jerry Nadler, the House Judiciary Committee chairman told me the same thing today that they want her to stay. It's hard to imagine a Democratic caucus without her, but that's also the reason why a lot of Democrats want something new. Some of the younger ones want a new fresh leadership for different approach than the Pelosi is handling things.
So, that has been a first focus, sorts of some tension within the caucus. But you can't dispute the way she has been able to keep her troops in line through very difficult circumstances, from narrow majorities, to being in the minority, to significant majorities being able to do all that maintaining some unity, both sides acknowledge that that is quite a feat.
KING: You also can't dispute that she is keeping us in suspense. So, her staff said, she would come to the floor at approximately 10 after the hour, it's not 14, approaching 15 after the hour, watching these the formality every day in the House. The one-minute speeches come in, but that's part of it as well.
This is, you know, this is politics, but this is like watching a great performer on the stage or a great athlete making a big decision about the next chapter. And again, for all the people out there who are disgusted by politics, who don't like politics, there are a lot of great public servants in that building, Democrats and Republicans who loved the institution.
And so, this has to be for her as a human being just a very difficult decision. Do you stay in fight in a new democratic minority against a Republican majority with whom you disagree on just about everything, fight for a president to whom you are very loyal, or her husband was just violently attacked in her house, in awful, example of the political violence in our country. Do you decide next chapter?
CORNISH: Yes. And I don't think it's a binary, there can be a lot in between there. She has put in her time, you know, a piece of context for people. When it comes to being a lawmaker in Congress, you can be a powerhouse legislator, meaning you understand the rules, can you maneuver, you can be a powerhouse fundraiser, or you can be a little bit of a show horse. And I think she is one of those people who she had all three. She has the showmanship, she has the fundraising prowess, and she has the legislative skill.
KING: And it's a great point, please.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And this is, you know, very sort of classic Nancy Pelosi very choreographed, right? I mean, she, all of her allies are on the House floor. She telegraphed when she was going to speak, we're all now watching for when that's going to happen. This has been one of her trademarks. And one of the reasons that she's been so successful. (Crosstalk), she is extraordinarily controlled, discipline is definitely the word.
Nothing ever happens in Nancy Pelosi's world without her wanting it to and designing it to happen that way. And I think it's very important for her to sort of orchestrate whatever this next move is, herself and to be really sort of in control of the whole process, even if the ultimate decision is she's going to pass the torch on to somebody else.
KING: Right. And as someone I keep dating myself, but as someone who has been in Washington since way before phones were smart, and way before the internet was a factor in everyday life. She used to have the boxes of index cards, and everybody's birthday, the names of the children, you know, it may sound trite, or this is how you make friends and assume power.
HIRSCHFELD DAVIS: And that came from her father, when he was a congressman in Baltimore when she was a child, and they would sit at the table in the kitchen, and he had his box of index cards. And she learned that from him. And that has been one of the things that has made her very effective.
KING: Melanie Zanona is standing by, a member of our Capitol Hill team as well. Melanie, the anticipation up there in the buildings has to be off the charts today.
MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, absolutely. I was talking to Democrats as they were going into the chamber. Everyone is on pins and needles. No one knows what Nancy Pelosi is going to do. But this is going to be an epic moment for the Democratic Party. They have not known a leadership without democratic, Nancy Pelosi leading them.
And you know, for them, it's been a really, really difficult time leading up into these midterms. They haven't known what that midterm result was going to be. And it ended up being a stronger showing for them. And so, you know, there is a sense that if Nancy Pelosi wanted to stay, she could stay. But at the same time, there's a lot of generational thirst for change.
And you know, there could be other people that step up to the plate. Hakeem Jeffries, I'm told is likely to run for the top spot if Nancy Pelosi doesn't. I talked to a member just now who said, Hakeem is prepared for the moment, should it come. So, just a lot of anticipation, right now, John?
KING: Melanie, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi on the floor.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Madam Speaker, as we gather here, we stand on sacred ground, the chamber of the United States House of Representatives, the heart of American democracy. I will never forget the first time I saw the Capitol. It was on a cold January day when I was six years old. My father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr. was about to be sworn in for his fifth term in Congress, representing our beloved hometown of Baltimore.
I was riding in the car with my brothers, and they were thrilled and jumping up and down and saying to me, Nancy look, Nancy look, there's the Capitol. And I keep every time I'd say, I don't see any Capitol. Is it a capital A, a capital B, or a capital C. And finally, I saw it, a stunning white building with a magnificent dome. I believed then, as I believe today, this is the most beautiful building in the world, because of what it represents. The Capitol is a temple of our democracy, of our constitution, of our highest ideals.
On that day, I stood with my father on this floor as he took the sacred oath to support and defend the constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. All of us who have served in this House, have taken the hallowed oath of office and it is the oath that stitches us together in a long and storied heritage colleagues who serve before us, our own, our colleagues, colleagues like Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Webster, Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, and our beloved John Lewis.
Personally, it binds me as a colleague to my father, a proud new deal with a congressman, and one of the earliest Italian Americans to serve in the Congress. And this is an oath we are duty bound to keep. And it links us with the highest aspirations of the ages. In this room, our colleagues across history have abolished slavery, granted women the right to vote, establish social security and Medicare, offered a hand to the weak, care to the sick, education to the young and hope to the many.
Indeed, it is here, under the gaze of our patriarch, George Washington, in the people's house, that we have done the people's work. My colleagues, I stand before you as Speaker of the House, as a wife, a mother, a grandmother of devout Catholic, a proud Democrat, and a patriotic American, a citizen of the greatest Republic in the history of the world, which President Lincoln called the last best hope on earth.
Indeed, in the words attributed to another of our colleagues, the legendary Daniel Webster, he said, hold on my friends, to the constitution of your country, and the government established under it. Miracles do not cluster that which has happened but once in 6000 years, cannot be expected to happen often. Indeed, American democracy is majestic, but it is fragile.
Many of us here have witnessed its first - fragility firsthand, tragically in this chamber. And so, democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm. Last week the American people spoke, and their voices were raised in defense of liberty, of the rule of law and of democracy itself.
With these elections, the people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on democracy. They resoundingly rejected, violence and insurrection, and in doing so, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. And now, we owe to the American people our very best to deliver on their faith to forever reach for the more perfect union, the glorious horizon that our founders promised.
The questions before this Congress in this moment are urgent, questions about the ideals that this House is charged by the constitution to preserve and protect, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves, and our posterity, our posterity, our children, babies born today will live into the next century, and our decisions will determine their future for generations to come
While we will have our disagreements on policy, we must remain fully committed to our shared fundamental mission, to hold strong to our most treasured democratic ideals to cherish the spark of divinity, and each and every one of us, and to always put our country first. In their infinite wisdom, our founders gave us their client, their guidance, e pluribus unum, from many one.
They could not have imagined how large our country would become or how different we would be from one another, but they knew we had to be united as one. We the people, one country, one destiny. It's been with great pride in my 35 years in the House, I have seen this body grow more reflective of our great nation, our beautiful nation.
When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90, and we want more. The new members of our democratic caucus will be about 75 percent women, people of color and LGBTQ. And we have brought more voices to the decision-making table. When I entered leadership in 2002, there were eight of us. Today, there are 17 members of the leadership.
When I first came to the floor at six years old, never would I have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House speaker. In fact, I never intended to run for public office. Mummy and daddy taught us through their example, that public service is a noble calling, and that we all have a responsibility to help others.
In our family, my brother Tommy then became mayor of Baltimore also. But it's my privilege to play a part in forging extraordinary progress for the American people, I have enjoyed working with three presidents achieving historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush, transformed healthcare reform with President Barack Obama, and forging and forging the future from infrastructure to healthcare to climate action with President Joe Biden.
Now we must move boldly into the future, grounded by the principles that have propelled us this far and open to fresh possibilities for the future. Scripture teaches us that for everything, there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. My friends, no matter what title you all my colleagues have bestowed upon me, speaker, leader, whip, there is no greater official honor for me than to stand on this floor and to speak for the people of San Francisco.
This I will continue to do as a member of the House, speaking for the people of San Francisco, serving the great state of California, and defending our constitution. And with great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. For me, the hours come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I'm grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.
Madam Speaker, standing here today, I'm endlessly grateful for all of life's blessings. For my Democratic colleagues, whose courage and commitment with the support of your families have made many of these accomplishments possible that could not have been done without you. For my dear husband, Paul, who has been my beloved partner in life and my pillar of support, thank you. We're all grateful for all the prayers and well wishes as he continues his recovery. Thank you so much.