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Mikulski Supports Pelosi for Minority Leader

An assignment for Government 522: Political Speechwriting and Presentation: a hypothetical speech by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) in support of Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) continuing as a leader in the House. Written 8 Nov. 2010.

Good afternoon. A week ago we witnessed a trend continue here inWashington. A trend whereby the sitting President’s party loses seats in both houses of Congress. Those losses, while dramatic, were not radically different from past midterm elections. And they should not leave us shaken in our commitment to the progressive ideas that the country embraced when we were elected.

But we saw a trend broken last Tuesday.  For the last three decades women gained more and more seats in Congress. Women broke into the old boys club, and women rose to party leadership positions for the first time. Last Tuesday that trend was broken. And for the first time in thirty years, women will have fewer seats in Congress. That’s fewer voices for the needs of women nationwide.

Now is not the time to silence another woman’s voice. Not when fewer than 17 percent of those in Congress are women, and not when we have a successful leader deserving of our support. That leader is Speaker Pelosi and we must help her shatter the glass ceiling that remains even after she broke through to lead the House of Representatives.

I often wonder how Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to the House, would have reacted to a female Speaker. Rankin knew the difficulties of breaking into the old boys club. She was elected in Montanafour years before the 19th Amendment was ratified. But could she imagine a day when a woman would be judged by her abilities, and even when we were still a minority in the House, be elected Speaker?

I’m not sure if I could have believed it when I was first elected to the House in 1976 or even when I was elected to the Senate ten years later. I probably would not have believed you if you told me that as I started my first term in the Senate, the future Speaker was starting her first term in the House.  But years later, I can’t believe and I won’t accept the calls for Speaker Pelosi to step aside.

I know that we are worried about our party’s future. We are worried about Republicans reversing much of the progress that pushed our country forward over the last couple years. And we are worried that if we elect Speaker Pelosi as our minority leader that we will be punished in two years. But this is not a time to consider our tenure. It is time to do what is right.

Speaker Pelosi embraced our most ambitious plans and succeeded in passing them through a diverse Democratic caucus and over obstinate Republican opposition. She was at the forefront, and she made the tough decisions that we demanded of her. She didn’t have the luxury of just saying no.

Healthcare reform had been a failed priority for decades. Speaker Pelosi ensured its passage. A week before the vote, and still needing commitments from many here today, she dug in her heels and secured the support we needed.  Where numerous Speakers before her had failed, she passed the most comprehensive overhaul of healthcare in generations… twice. Millions of Americans will be able to afford health insurance, and millions more will continue to receive care without lifetime caps on coverage. Because of her efforts, being a woman is no longer considered a preexisting condition.

Where we failed in the Senate to enact climate change legislation, and where we have yet to overturn the discriminatory Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, she succeeded. She led a diverse House to act on our pledges and our promises. And for that reason alone, we should not turn her away from leadership.

With the party that opposed her at every step set to control the House next year, we must guarantee that our successes are not reversed. The determination that Representative Pelosi demonstrated as Speaker will serve her well as Minority Leader and will ensure that our country keeps moving forward.

I support her not just because she is a woman and not just because she is my friend. I support her because she is an effective leader. We need her to remind us that we still have strength as the minority party in the House. We need her to be ambitious and to make sure that we remember our shared beliefs. And we need her to do what she does best, we need her to lead.

Let us remember her strengths and let us support a strong leader for a still strong party.

Thank you.

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