This is not Nancy Pelosi’s first rodeo, but the rodeo certainly looks different this time around.
At the Time 100 Summit in New York yesterday, the House speaker said she is feeling more “liberated” during her second stint in the role, in part because she is now leading the most diverse U.S. House of Representatives in history—including 115 people of color, eight openly LGBTQ members, and 102 women.
Pelosi said people close to her have even remarked that she’s “uncharacteristically boastful” of the work that Congress is accomplishing in the new term.
“It’s not for me—it’s for the women,” Pelosi said of her newfound swagger. “I want women to have all the confidence in the world. They should not be inhibited to sing their own praises or take credit for what they have done.”
Pelosi made the remarks during a discussion with Time magazine’s Molly Ball. She cited a number of recent Congressional wins, including the passage of a gun safety bill that enhanced background checks on firearm purchases and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
She also noted that a high number of recently elected representatives serve as chairs of House subcommittees. “Eighteen members of this freshman class have a gavel. That’s a very, very big deal,” she said. She compared this to the class of 1974—the “Watergate Babies”—which she said was viewed as a historically transformative group. “Not one of them, in their first year, was a chair on a subcommittee,” she said, indicating the progress made over the decades.
She told the summit she was proud that Democrats were bringing up the female average, with 89 Democratic and 13 Republican women in the House. Still, 102 women of 435 total House members represents less than a quarter of the legislative body. Pelosi acknowledged that there’s a long way to go to achieve ideal levels of participation by women.
“Nothing is more wholesome for America than the increased participation of women in government,” she said.
Many of the newly elected women identify with what’s come to be known as a more progressive wing of the Democratic Party, a faction whose scale Pelosi recently downplayed in an interview with 60 Minutes. “That’s like five people,” she said of the group, while also admitting her preference to take a more centrist path.
One reason for the friction is a discord over impeachment, which Pelosi has approached with caution. She warned the summit of the division that impeachment would bring, and encouraged her colleagues to study the facts of the Mueller report before making any decisions. “All of us in public office have a duty to the American people to keep us together,” she said.
Going forward, Pelosi’s goals are to work on bipartisan terms with the Republican-controlled Senate and President Trump on “kitchen table concerns,” such as lowering the costs of healthcare and improving infrastructure, two areas where she said the president has shown interest.
In the meantime, she expressed her delight in how women across the country mobilized by partaking in the various women’s marches. “It wasn’t political. It was organic and spontaneous,” she said.
On the long-term goal of continuing to boost the role of women in politics, she acknowledged that the conditions need to be more favorable for them to partake.
“I guarantee you this,” she said, “If we reduce the role of money and increase the role of civility in politics, we’ll have many, many more women.”