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The Situation Room

Nancy Pelosi Elected First Woman Speaker of the House of Representatives

Aired January 04, 2007 - 14:02   ET


We're waiting for members of the House of Representatives, all 435, who have gathered on this historic day here in Washington, D.C., to be seated. John Boehner, the Republican leader, will make some brief remarks introducing Nancy Pelosi.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Madame Speaker, Leader Hoyer, my distinguished colleagues, welcome to you all.

I'd particularly like to welcome our new colleagues. It's an honor and a privilege to serve in this great institution. And I'd like to thank you in advance for the sacrifices and contributions you'll make to this body during your time here.

As colleagues, we owe a huge debt to those who have served before us. I'd be remiss if I did not mention the enormous contributions of one of my predecessors, Gerald Ford.

Former President Ford served in the House over 25 years, including eight of those years as Republican leader from 1965 to 1973. He served his Michigan constituents and the American people with great distinction, not just here in Congress, but as vice President and as President of the United States.

The thoughts and prayers of this House and those of a grateful nation are with Betty and the Ford family.


BOEHNER: This is an historic day. In a few moments I'll have the high privilege of handing the gavel of the House of Representatives to a woman for the first time in American history.


BOEHNER: For more than 200 -- for more than 200 years, the leader of our government -- the leaders of our government have been democratically elected. And from their ranks, our leaders have always selected a man for the responsibility and honor as serving as speaker of the House. Always, that is, until today.

It is sometimes said the founding fathers would not recognize the government that exists here in Washington today. That it has grown in size and scope, far beyond anything they could ever have imagined, much less endorsed or advocated for our future. But today marks an occasion I think the founding fathers would view approvingly.

My fellow Americans, whether you're a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent, today is a cause for celebration.


BOEHNER: Today also, of course, marks a change in the House majority.

Twelve years ago, some of us stood proudly in this chamber as our former colleague, Dick Gephardt from Missouri, handed the gavel to the new Republican speaker, Newt Gingrich, from Georgia. There was some great achievements during those 12 years that followed, and we're fortunate that the man who was the driving force behind many of those achievements will continue to serve with us -- the gentleman from Illinois, Denny Hastert.


BOEHNER: There were some great achievements during those 12 years that followed. There were also some profound disappointments. And if there's one lesson that stands out from our party's time in the majority it's this: A congressional majority is simply a means to an end. The value of a majority lies not in the chance to wield great power, but in the chance to use limited power to achieve great things.

We refer to the gavel that I'm holding as the speaker's gavel. But like everything else in this chamber, it really belongs to the American people. It's on loan from the real owners.

This is the people's House. This is the people's Congress. And most people in America don't care who controls it.

What they want is a government that is limited, honest, accountable and responsive to their needs. And the moment a majority forgets this lesson, it begins writing itself a ticket to minority status.

The 110th Congress will write the next chapter in American history. But the American people will dictate it.

Today, the Democrat Party assumes the challenge and opportunity of majority power in the people's House. Republicans will hold the incoming majority accountable for its promises and its actions. But we also want to work with the incoming majority for the good of our nation that we were all elected to serve.


BOEHNER: Fundamentally, a democracy is a battle of ideas. The battle of ideas, I believe, is healthy and is important for our nation. But it's also a battle that can take place respectfully.

Republicans and Democrats can disagree without being disagreeable to each other. Sometimes what people call partisanship is really a deep disagreement over a means to a shared goal. And we should welcome that conversation, encourage it, enjoy it, and be nice about it.


BOEHNER: It's now my privilege to present the gavel of the United States House of Representatives to the first woman speaker in our history, the gentlelady from California, Nancy Pelosi.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE SPEAKER: Thank you, Leader Boehner.

Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, my colleagues.

Thank you, Leader Boehner, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker.

I accept this gavel in the spirit of partnership, not partisanship, and I look forward to working...


PELOSI: I look forward to working with you, Mr. Boehner and the Republicans in the Congress for the good of the American people.

After giving this gavel away in the first two -- in the last two Congresses, I'm glad someone else has the honor today.

In this House, we may be different parties but we serve one country. And our pride and our prayers are united behind our men and women in uniform.


PELOSI: They are they are working together to protect the American people. And in this Congress, we must work together to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.


PELOSI: In this hour, we need and pray for the character, courage and civility of the former member of this House, President Ford. He healed the country when it need healing. This is another time, another war, and another trial of American will, imagination and spirit. Let us honor his memory not just in eulogy, but in dialogue and trust across the aisle.


PELOSI: I want to join Leader Boehner in expressing our condolences and our appreciation to Mrs. Ford and the entire Ford family for their decades of leadership and service to our country.

(APPLAUSE) PELOSI: With today's convening of the 110th Congress, we begin anew. I congratulate all members of Congress on your election. I especially want to congratulate our new members of Congress.

The genius of our founders was that -- well, let's hear it for our new members of Congress.


PELOSI: The genius of the genius of our founders was that every two years, new members would bring to this House their spirit of renewal and hope for the American people. This Congress has reinvigorated new members by your optimism and your idealism and your commitment to our country. Let us acknowledge your families whose support have made your leadership possible today.

To your families.


PELOSI: Each of us brings to this Congress our shared values, our commitment to the Constitution, and our personal experience.

My path to Congress and to the speakership began in Baltimore, where my father was the mayor. I was raised in a large family that was devoutly Catholic, deeply patriotic, very proud of our Italian- American heritage, and staunchly Democratic.


PELOSI: My parents taught us that public service was a noble calling and that we had a responsibility to help those in need. I viewed them as working on the side of the angels. And now they are with them. But I am so happy that my brother, Tommy D'Alesandro, who was also a mayor of Baltimore, is here leading the D'Alesandro family from Baltimore today.


PELOSI: He's sitting right up there with Tony Bennett.

Forty-three years ago, Paul Pelosi and I were married. We raised our five children in San Francisco, where Paul was born and raised.

I want to thank Paul and our five children, Nancy Corinne, Christine, Jacqueline, Paul Jr., and Alexandra, and our magnificent grandchildren for their love, for their support, and the confidence they gave me to go from the kitchen to the Congress.


PELOSI: And I thank my constituents in San Francisco and the state of California for the privilege of representing them in Congress.

St. Francis of Assisi is our city's patron saint, and his Song of St. Francis is our city's anthem. "Lord, make me a channel of thy peace. Where there is darkness, may we bring light. Where there is hatred, may we bring love. Where there is despair, may we bring hope."

Hope, that is what America is about. And it is in that spirit that I serve in the Congress of the United States.


PELOSI: And today, I thank my colleagues. By electing me speaker, you have brought us closer to the ideal of equality. That is, America's heritage and America's hope.

This is an historic moment, and I thank the leader for acknowledging it.

Thank you, Mr. Boehner.

It's an historic moment for the Congress, it's an historic moment for the women of America.


PELOSI: It is a moment -- it is a moment for which we have waited over 200 years.


PELOSI: Never losing faith, we waited through the many years of struggle to achieve our rights. But women weren't just waiting, women were working.

Never losing faith, we worked to redeem the promise of America, that all men and women are created equal.


PELOSI: For our daughters and our granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. For our daughters and our granddaughters now, the sky is the limit. Anything is possible for them.


PELOSI: The election of 2006 was a call to change. Not merely to change the control of Congress, but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in the war in Iraq.


PELOSI: The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.

Shortly, President Bush will address the nation on the subject of Iraq. It is the responsibility of the president to articulate a new plan for Iraq that makes it clear to the Iraqis that they must defend their own streets and their own security. A plan that makes -- promotes stability in the region and a plan that allows us to responsibly redeploy our troops.


PELOSI: Let us work together to be the Congress that rebuilds our military to meet the national security challenges of the 21st century.


PELOSI: Let us be the Congress that strongly honors our responsibility to protect the American people from terrorism.


PELOSI: Let us be the Congress that never forgets our commitment to our veterans and our first responders, always honoring them as the heroes that they are.


PELOSI: The American people also spoke clearly for a new direction here at home. They desire a new vision, a new America, built on the values that have made our country great.

Our founders envisioned a new America driven by optimism, opportunity, and strength. So confident were they in the America that they were advancing that they put on the seal, the great seal of the United States, "Novos Ordo Seculorum," a new order for the centuries.

Centuries. They spoke of the centuries.

They envisioned America as a just and good place, as a fair and efficient society, and as a source of opportunity for all. This vision has sustained us for over 200 years, and it accounts for what is best in our great nation: liberty, opportunity and justice.


PELOSI: Now it is our responsibility to carry forth that vision of a new America into the 21st century.

A new America that seizes the future and forges 21st century solutions through discovery, creativity, and innovation, sustaining our economic leadership and ensuring our national security.

A new America with a vibrant and strengthened middle class, for whom college is affordable, healthcare is accessible and retirement reliable.


PELOSI: A new America that declares our energy independence, promotes domestic sources of renewable energy, and combats climate change. (APPLAUSE)

PELOSI: A new a new America that is strong, secure, and a respected leader among the community of nations.


PELOSI: And the American people told us they expected us to work together for fiscal responsibility, with the highest ethical standard and with civility and bipartisanship.


PELOSI: After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard. Pay as you go, no new deficit spending.


PELOSI: Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.


PELOSI: In order to achieve our new America for the 21st century, we must return this House to the American people. So, our first order of business is passing the toughest congressional ethics reform in history.


PELOSI: This new Congress doesn't have two years or 200 days. Let us join together in the first 100 hours to make this the Congress the most honest and open Congress in history.


PELOSI: One hundred hours.

This openness requires respect for every voice in the Congress. As Thomas Jefferson said, every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.

My colleagues elected me to be speaker of the House. The entire House. Respectful of the vision of our founders, the expectation of our people, and the great challenges that we face, we have an obligation to reach beyond partisanship to work for all Americans.


PELOSI: Let us stand together to move our country forward, seeking common ground for the common good. We have made history. Now let us make progress for the American people.


PELOSI: May God bless our work and may God bless America.


BLITZER: Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to be speaker of the House of Representatives.

PELOSI: Before we move forward, because there are so many children here, and so many of them asked me if they could touch the gavel, I wanted to invite as many of them who wanted to come forward to come join me up here. I know my own grandchildren will.

Let's hear it for the children. We're here for the children.


BLITZER: An unscripted moment, not exactly what has traditionally been in line. Normally after the speaker-elect, and now the speaker, delivers those remarks, he or she, in this particular case, is administered the oath.

And there she is. She's relishing this moment. These are children and grandchildren of members who have been invited here to participate in this historic moment.

PELOSI: For all -- for these children, our children, and for all of America's children, the House will come to order.


BLITZER: And that's it. That's the end of her formal remarks. Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House of Representatives.

John Dingell, the Democrat from Michigan, will now administer the oath of office.

PELOSI: From the Dean of the Congress of the United States, Mr. Dingell. And in acknowledging him, I also want to acknowledge Speaker Foley, who has been with us as well.


REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: If the distinguished gentlewoman from California will please raise your right hand. Do you solemnly swear that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that you will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and that you take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that you will faithfully and well discharge the duties of the office upon which you are about to enter, so help you god?



DINGELL: Congratulations, Madam Speaker. BLITZER: She is now the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, on this historic day here in Washington. She may be swearing in the members right now. Let's listen.

PELOSI: According to precedent, the chair will swear in the members of Congress en masse.

REP. RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: Madam Speaker, a parliamentary inquiry.

PELOSI: For what purpose does the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Holt seek recognition?

HOLT: I have a parliamentary inquiry, Madam Speaker.

PELOSI: The gentleman may state the inquiry.

HOLT: In light of the fact that there are nonpartisan and partisan lawsuits underway with regard to Florida's 13th congressional district, and that the votes of 18,000 voters were not recorded on the paperless electronic voting machines in an election decided by only 369 votes, may I ask, for the record, whether a notice of contest has been filed with the clerk on behalf of Christine Jennings, pursuant to law, and what effect, if any, today's proceedings have on the pending contests?

PELOSI: I thank the gentleman. The chair is advised by the clerk that a notice of contest pursuant to the statute Section 382, of Title II, U.S. Code, has been filed with the clerk. Under Section 5 of Article I of the Constitution and the statute, the House remains the judge of the election of its members.

The seating of this member-elect is entirely without prejudice to the contest over the final right to that seat that is pending under the statute and will be reviewed in the ordinary course in the committee on House administration.

HOLT: I thank the speaker.

PELOSI: I thank you.


PELOSI: For what purpose does this gentleman recognized?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Madam speaker, am I correct that the parliamentary inquiry -- Madam Speaker.

PELOSI: The gentleman may state his inquiry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Am I correct, Madam Speaker, that the gentleman from Florida, Mr. Buchanan, has been certified by the secretary of state as duly elected from the 13th district of Florida?

PELOSI: The gentleman is correct.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thank the speaker.

PELOSI: I thank the gentleman. I thank the gentlemen.

Members-elect will all rise. The chair will now administer the oath of office. All members-elect will raise their right hand.

Do you solemnly swear or affirm that you will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that you will bear true state and allegiance to the same, that you will take this obligation freely without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion and that you will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which you are about to enter, so help you god?

GROUP: I do.

PELOSI: Congratulation, you are all now members of the 110th Congress.

BLITZER: And there you have it, history made in Washington D.C., the first female speaker of the House of Representatives. Madam Speaker, she will now be called, Nancy Pelosi, originally from Baltimore, more recently from San Francisco, now, the speaker of the House.

I just want to explain to our viewers, that little parliamentary maneuver that happened just before she swore in all 435 members of the House of Representatives. Congressman Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey, was referring to a contested seat.

The Democrats are not very happy that in the 13th district in Florida, the seat that was held by Katherine Harris, who had been the Republican Congresswoman from that seat -- she gave up the seat to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate -- a very close vote between the Democrat Christine Jennings and the Republican Vern Buchanan.

Vern Buchanan won by only a few hundred votes, as you heard, but some 18,000 ballots showed that those people did not vote for that key race right there, and the Democrats want to investigate what happened to those paperless -- those electronic ballots. And as a result, they wanted to file a formal motion that this is a contested seat and the investigation should still continue.

Jeff Greenfield, the harmony that we saw did not last very long.

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SR. ANALYST: There are veterans of the House who still remember what is called the "Bloody Eight," a 20-year- old battle in Indiana's eighth congressional district where, on a strictly partisan basis, the Democrats receded. Republicans carried the grudge all the way through their control of the Congress.

This is not the same kind of issue. This appears to be a really -- remember 2000 -- badly designed ballot. And the really interesting question is, what, if any, remedy is there? Special new election? They don't know how to recount these things. This is going to be an interesting debate. But I really -- I'd be surprised if it rises to the level of that 20-year-old Hatfield-McCoy feud.

BLITZER: We're going to continue to watch that story. Vern Buchanan, though, will be the member from that 13th district for the time being.

Candy Crowley, you watched all of this unfold. Give us a closing thought on this historic day.

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SR. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, obviously, it was -- has got to warm the hearts of women everywhere to see a woman break what she called the "marble ceiling." I was interested in the substance of her address, probably the most important speech of her political life, where she talked about responsible redeployment in Iraq.

What struck me about her remarks about Iraq is that it showed both the weakness of Democrats, in terms of what they can actually do about Iraq, and their strength which is the bully pulpit.

There she was, probably before the largest audience she's ever spoken to before, given the television coverage, putting pressure on the president of the United States to bring about a situation where the Iraqis can take over in Iraq and there can be responsible redeployment. So that, to me, was the moment of this speech.

BLITZER: Candy Crowley, thanks very much. Candy part of the best political team on television.

I want to thank all our reporters, our correspondents, our contributors for joining us on this day, for this transfer of power, a power shift in Washington from the Republican majority in the House and Senate to the Democratic majority in the House and the Senate.

We're going to have a lot more on this coming up at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be back for that. And among our guests later in THE SITUATION ROOM will be the newly elected Democratic senator from Virginia, Jim Webb, among other guests as well.

Stay tuned for "CNN NEWSROOM." That's coming up right after a short commercial break with Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon. Thanks very much for watching.