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Nancy Pelosi Elected Speaker Of The House, Reclaims Gavel She Last Held In 2011


Today on Capitol Hill, history was made again.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: The Honorable Nancy Pelosi of the state of California, having received a majority of the votes cast, is duly elected speaker of the House of Representatives...


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...For the 116th Congress.

CORNISH: The first woman ever elected speaker of the House in 2007 retook the gavel today. Nancy Pelosi is the first speaker since Sam Rayburn in the 1950s to get a second chance to rewrite her final chapter in politics. NPR congressional correspondent Susan Davis has this report on what Pelosi plans to do with that power.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: It was a familiar scene on the House floor today when Nancy Pelosi invited all the children in the chamber to surround her as she gaveled in the new Democratic majority.


NANCY PELOSI: I now call the House to order on behalf of all of America's children.


PELOSI: Go, kids. Go, kids. Go, kids.

DAVIS: It was exactly the same way Pelosi first entered the speakership nearly a decade ago. A lot has changed in American politics since then. But Pelosi has remained a constant, as is her ability to get the votes she needs to win. Fifteen House Democrats voted against Pelosi for speaker, but many of her previous detractors, like Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton, voted for her. He now sounds like this.


SETH MOULTON: But there's a time to vote for captain, and then there's a time to play on the same team. And we're all ready to play on the same team now to get things done for the American people.

DAVIS: In her address to the House, Pelosi outlined a legislative agenda that makes clear Republicans are no longer in charge here. Democrats will prioritize bills to combat climate change, enhanced background checks for gun purchases, protect LGBTQ rights and create a path to citizenship for people brought to the U.S. illegally as children.


PELOSI: Our common cause is to find and forge a way forward for our country. Let us stand for the people to promote liberty and justice for all.

DAVIS: With Republicans still in control of the Senate and President Trump in the White House, divided government is unlikely to see those bills signed into law. Where Pelosi will be a critical player is overseeing dozens of oversight investigations the Democrats have planned into the Trump administration, as well as how the House will respond to the eventual conclusion of the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Pelosi has been reluctant to engage on questions about possible impeachment proceedings, but she has not ruled it out. Here she is on NBC's "Today" show this morning.


PELOSI: We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason. So we just have to see how it comes.

DAVIS: In the same interview, she became the highest ranking lawmaker to date to openly side with legal scholars who have questioned the assertion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.


PELOSI: I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law.

DAVIS: In recent weeks, Pelosi has helped quash doubts about her political instincts and grip on power - sometimes by accident. She displayed an unflappable reserve in front of President Trump when he decided to broadcast a White House meeting with her and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.


PELOSI: Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.

DAVIS: And at 78 years old, she proved she can still resonate culturally when her rust-colored Max Mara coat became a fashion moment in a political meme in one accidental stroke. Pelosi told Elle magazine this week she was just cold and needed a coat. Democrats like New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries spoke passionately about Pelosi's return to power today.


HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Nancy Pelosi is just getting started.


DAVIS: Her final chapter also won't last long. In order to secure the votes for speaker, Pelosi cut a deal with a group of Democrats who want to impose term limits on party leaders. It would give her, at most, four years left to serve as speaker. Pelosi says she'll honor the terms even if the caucus ultimately rejects it. Susan Davis, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.