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Nancy Pelosi quotes Ronald Reagan in return as House speaker

By
Clyde Hughes and Danielle Haynes
Rep. Abigail Spanberger and children at 116th U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.
Rep. Abigail Spanberger, D-N.J., sits with her children at the start of the 116th U.S. Congress. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI

Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi invoked former President Ronald Reagan, promising to protect undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children, shortly after being sworn in as House speaker for a second time Thursday.

She quoted the 40th president's last speech as leader of the country when she spoke of the so-called Dreamers protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

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"He said, 'If we ever close the door to new Americans, our leadership role in the world will soon be lost' -- Ronald Reagan," Pelosi said.

"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 as we pledge every day. And always, always keep our nation safe from threats old and new, from terrorism and cyber warfare overseas and here at home to protect and defend."

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The 78-year-old Pelosi, who became the nation's first female House speaker when she took the gavel in 2007, now becomes the third person to serve in that capacity in non-consecutive terms. Only former Secretary of State Henry Clay in the 1800s and Sam Rayburn, who served on three different occasions until his death in 1961, hold that honor.

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President Donald Trump offered his congratulations to Pelosi during his first appearance in the White House briefing room Thursday afternoon. He said it was a "tremendous achievement."

"Hopefully we have a lot of things we can get done together," he said, citing a common interest in an infrastructure package.

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Nearly every Democrat voted for Pelosi except for a handful of newcomers who pledged in their campaigns not to support her as speaker. But no one challenged her for the leadership post.

Republicans, meanwhile, voted for House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy; a handful voted for Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, a leader of the Freedom Caucus.

Pelosi's historic milestone is one of many in the 116th Congress. A record number of women, Hispanic and African-American members were sworn in, as well as firsts for Native Americans and Muslims.

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During her first speech in the new term, Pelosi praised the "transformative freshman class."

"When our new members take the oath, our Congress will be refreshed and our democracy will be strengthened by their optimism, idealism and patriotism of this transformative freshman class. Congratulations to all of you in the freshman class. Working together we will redeem the promise of the American dream for every family, advancing progress for every community," she said.

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Pelosi is originally from Maryland, where Baltimore voters elected her father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., mayor for terms covering 12 years and five terms in the House.

Pelosi's brother, Thomas D'Alesandro III, also served as mayor of Baltimore from 1967 to 1970. Nancy Pelosi and her husband, Paul Pelosi, a San Francisco native, have five children and nine grandchildren.

Nancy Pelosi, who has represented California's 12th and 5th Congressional districts since 1987, was first elected to the Democratic National Committee representing California in 1976 before replacing Sala Burton in a district that covers most of San Francisco.

A Gallup poll released Thursday shows Pelosi is viewed favorably by 38 percent of Americans and unfavorably by 48 percent.

Pelosi steps into the speaker's role with some immediate crises at hand, including the federal government shutdown and the looming investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into Trump's campaign and Russian collusion.

In an interview with NBC's Today show that aired Thursday, Pelosi left the door open on the impeachment of Trump, saying the matter should not be clouded by politics.

"We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason," she said.

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Pelosi said she was optimistic that she could negotiate with Trump, even though the president presents some challenges.

"You have to ... stipulate to some fact," Pelosi said, "It's hard to do that with the president because he resists science, evidence, data, truth. It's hard to pin the president down on the facts."

Pelosi vowed to provide checks and balances against the Trump administration instead of the "rubber stamp" of his first two years in office.

"He was used to serving with a Republican Congress, House and Senate that was a rubber stamp to him. That won't be the case," Pelosi told USA Today on Thursday. "Oversight of government by the Congress is our responsibility."

Internally, Pelosi faces a challenge from the left flank of the Democratic Party that earlier threatened her return as speaker.

Congressional newcomers, like New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at age 29 the youngest woman elected to Congress, have said they plan to oppose Pelosi on an overhaul of House rules created to rein in deficit spending.

To win over the votes she needed to become speaker, Pelosi cut a deal with her critics that term-limited her tenure to 2022, or to win over a two-thirds vote in the caucus rather than a simple majority.

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"This is legacy-building time," Jennifer Lawless, an expert on women in politics at the University of Virginia told The New York Times about Pelosi. "If she can be the person who is remembered for holding Trump accountable, or not letting him put forward facts that are not facts, if she can be the one who just calmly sits there and hold his feet to the fire, in a lot of ways, that's just as important as anything else she does."

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