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Thursday, 14 November, 2002, 18:55 GMT
US Congress gets first woman leader
Nancy Pelosi
Nancy Pelosi represents liberal Democrats
The Democratic Party in the US House of Representatives has elected its first woman leader, Nancy Pelosi, as part of a shake-up following the mid-term polls earlier this month.


I'm very, very honoured

Nancy Pelosi

The liberal 62-year old Democratic whip from San Francisco defeated Harold Ford Jr of Tennessee - who would have become the party's first black leader had he won.

She becomes the first female to head either party in Congress and replaces Richard Gephardt of Missouri.

He stepped down after the elections, which saw the Republicans increase their majority in the House of Representatives and recapture the Senate.

Nancy Pelosi has been an outspoken critic of Republican President George W Bush's policy on Iraq, and has faced suggestions that she may be too liberal to lead the party.

Another opponent, also a woman, Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, dropped out of the race shortly before Thursday's vote.

Republican Senate leader Trent Lott
Trent Lott becomes Senate Majority Leader

The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington said the move looks like a risky strategy for the party, as Ms Pelosi supports causes that are unfashionable outside liberal California, such as gay marriage.

But, our correspondent says, the Democrats hope a sharper differentiation of their policies from the Republicans might reinvigorate the party faithful and persuade other Americans that the party has something to say.

"I'm very, very honoured," Ms Pelosi said shortly after the vote, which was 177-29, according to unofficial results.

'Aggressive leadership'

The other three top jobs for the Congress taking power in early 2003 were distributed on Wednesday:

  • Tom Daschle - former Senate majority leader was re-elected for the Democrats holding 50 seats as opposed to the Republicans' 51.

  • Trent Lott - former minority leader was re-elected as head of the Republican majority.

  • Tom DeLay - described as a staunch conservative Republican - was promoted from whip to House majority leader.

Mr Lott promised aggressive leadership to achieve Republican priorities on national security and the economy, but also pledged to work with Democrats.

He said: "We have a lot of work to do and we are thankful for the opportunity to work with our president... with the House of Representatives and the Senate for results on behalf of the American people."

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07 Nov 02 | Americas
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