Nancy Pelosi staying put, criticizes Luke Russert for age question

November 14, 2012

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) plans to continue leading her caucus in the new Congress — despite the political odds and her age.

Pelosi announced her decision Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill while surrounded by her female Democratic colleagues.

When Pelosi took questions from reporters, NBC’s Luke Russert asked her whether she thought the House Democratic leadership is too old.

“The answer is no,” Pelosi responded as her colleagues booed loudly. She later called the question offensive and noted that reporters rarely ask such questions of male leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“Everything that I have done in my almost decade now of leadership is to elect younger and newer people to the Congress,” Pelosi said. “In my own personal experience, it was very important for me to elect young women.”

The question arises in part because Democratic lawmakers have said privately that the party need to begin fostering younger leaders. Pelosi, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), an assistant to Pelosi, are all in their 70s.

Meanwhile, The Post’s Paul Kane has details on her decision:

Democrats say she feels compelled to remain in leadership because the issues Congress is set to tackle are at the core of why she first ran for office.

 

Pelosi, 72, revealed her decision in a 9 a.m. meeting with House Democrats, surrounded by nearly 40 members of her party who were victorious in elections last week.

 

“The message is clear from the American people. They want us to work together to get things done. And that’s what these folks are here to do. Just like all of you,” Pelosi said, according to the notes taken a Democrat in the room. “We may not have the gavel, but as I can see in this room, we have the unity.”

 

The only woman to ever lead a congressional party caucus, Pelosi’s fate had been unclear since last Tuesday’s election left Democrats at least 17 seats short of the majority, following the GOP rout two years ago that ended her four-year run as the first female House speaker.

 

She spent the last week talking to Democratic lawmakers and her family and friends about her future plans, never quite revealing to any of them what her intentions were. Senior aides who have worked for her for years left the Capitol Tuesday night unsure of Pelosi’s decision.

Read Paul Kane’s full story here and share your thoughts in the comments section.

This story has been updated.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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Ed O'Keefe · November 14, 2012