Democrat Nancy Pelosi was elected on Thursday to be the new speaker of the US House of Representatives as her party took majority control of the chamber following its election victory in November.
This marks Pelosi’s second stint as speaker. She was the first woman ever to hold the job, serving from 2007 until 2011, when Republicans began an eight-year run in the House majority.
Pelosi received 220 votes for speaker, while Republican Representative Kevin McCarthy got 192 votes. A smattering of others received the remaining votes in the chamber that holds 435 seats.
“The American people spoke and demanded a new dawn,” Pelosi said after accepting the speaker’s gavel on Thursday.
The election puts Pelosi in position to lead the opposition to President Donald Trump’s agenda and to conduct in-depth investigations of his administration following two years during which Republicans have largely given him a free pass.
The new Congress is like none other. There are more women than ever before, and a new generation of Muslims, Latinos, Native Americans and African-Americans in the House is creating what academics call a reflective democracy, more aligned with the population of the United States. The Republican side in the House is still made up mostly of white men while in the Senate, Republicans bolstered their ranks in the majority.
Pelosi, 78, was first elected to the House in 1987 and has pledged to push legislation that would prompt large federal investments in infrastructure projects that Trump also has expressed an interest in tackling.
But Pelosi’s Democrats and Trump’s Republicans have taken vastly different approaches to rebuilding the nation’s bridges, roadways, airports and other public works projects that would also spark job creation.
“We have no illusions that our work will be easy, that all of us in this chamber will always agree,” Pelosi said on Thursday.
“But let each of us pledge that when we disagree, we will respect each other and we will respect the truth,” she added.
During last year’s congressional campaigns, Pelosi also talked about the need to improve Congress’s ethics rules and to pass legislation to lessen the influence of large corporate donations in congressional elections.
Pelosi, a liberal who represents San Francisco, will lead a House with 235 Democrats, 199 Republicans and one seat in North Carolina still being contested.
First on her agenda will be ending the partial government shutdown, now in its 13th day. The shutdown, which began on December 22, came after Trump’s refusal to give up on his demand for $5bn in funding for a wall on the southern border, a request the Democrats vehemently oppose.
Pelosi told NBC earlier on Thursday that there is “no amount of persuasion” that Trump could use to get Democrats to agree to fund the wall.
House Democrats are expected to immediately pass a two-part spending package meant to end the shutdown. The legislation does not include money for the wall. On Wednesday, Republican leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will not take up the legislation because Trump would not sign it. Congressional leaders are expected to resume talks over the shutdown on Friday at the White House.
Besides her legislative agenda, Pelosi has made clear that the House’s Democrat-run committees will conduct in-depth oversight of Trump administration officials and likely would attempt to get the president’s recent tax returns as part of House investigations into his business dealings.
Some of Pelosi’s Democrats already have hinted that these oversight investigations could lead to impeachment proceedings against Trump, depending on the findings of committee hearings and special counsel Robert Mueller’s separate findings from his investigation into the 2016 presidential election and Russian interference.
As House speaker, Pelosi will set the legislative agenda for the House, is a leading figure in Democratic Party politics and is second in line for the presidency after Vice President Mike Pence.
Republicans maintain control of the Senate by a margin of 53-47 for the next two years.