Nancy Pelosi elected to lead diverse House

Nancy Pelosi reacts after casting her vote for herself as Speaker of the House, during the opening session of the 116th Congress in the US Capitol in Washington.Image copyright

California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has again been elected as Speaker – the third most powerful role in Washington – in the US House of Representatives.

She reclaimed the gavel after the most diverse freshman class of House lawmakers were sworn in and took control of the lower chamber.

Her victory came as the government remained partially shut down over the president’s border wall.

Ms Pelosi has said she wants to end the shutdown but will not support the wall.

“I’m particularly proud to be a woman speaker of the house of this Congress, which marks the 100th year of women having the right to vote,’ she said.

“And, that we all have the ability and the privilege to serve with over 100 women members of Congress – the largest number in history. “

Ms Pelosi, 78, seized the gavel as the House made history with more women than ever before, including the first-ever female Muslim members of Congress as well as the first two Native American women.

Why did the government shutdown?

Ms Pelosi and her fellow House Democrats have vowed to pass spending bills to end the shutdown, but have insisted the bills will not include any funding for President Donald Trump’s border wall with Mexico.

Republicans, meanwhile, say they will not pass any bills without the president’s approval, meaning the gridlock will probably continue.

The partial shutdown began when Congress and Mr Trump failed to reach an agreement over a budget bill in December.

Mr Trump’s Republicans had passed an initial funding bill including $5bn (£4bn) for the wall, when they still had a majority in the House, but they could not get the necessary 60 votes in the 100-seat Senate.

Democrats won the majority of the House in the November mid-term elections.

What are the Democrats planning?

Nancy Pelosi said the Democrats would quickly pass budget legislation providing sufficient funds to end the shutdown, but has not offered specifics.

Speaking on the Today show on Thursday, she reiterated: “Nothing for the wall.”

“There is no amount of persuasion he can do to say to us, ‘We want you to do something that is not effective, that costs billions of dollars,'” she said.

“That sends the wrong message about who we are as a country.”

Ms Pelosi also said she believed a sitting president could be indicted – although Justice Department guidelines disagree.

The Democrats will also try to pass the blame for the shutdown on to the president, pointing out that the bills they will pass would be similar to legislation that had won bipartisan support in the Senate in December before Mr Trump signalled he would not back it.

“We’re asking the president to open up government,” Ms Pelosi said. “We have given the Republicans a chance to take yes for an answer.”

Image copyright
White House/Shealah Craighead

Image caption

Mr Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence met with Republican and Democratic leaders on Wednesday

One Democrat bill would temporarily fund the Department of Homeland Security until 8 February, while another measure would fund other departments closed by the partial shutdown until 30 September.

The Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, has said Republicans there will not back measures that Mr Trump does not support.

He called the Democrats’ move a “total nonstarter” and a “political sideshow”.

The BBC’s David Willis says the legislation would be dead on arrival in the Senate.

Mr Trump held a meeting with congressional leaders in the situation room of the White House on Wednesday, but Democrats and Republicans could not reach an agreement and are due to resume talks on Friday.

What does the partial shutdown mean?

  • About 25% of the US federal government has no funding
  • Nine departments have been affected, including Homeland Security, Justice, Housing, Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, and the Treasury
  • Around 800,000 federal workers are now furloughed – that is, temporarily laid off due to a lack of funding – or working without pay
  • Native American tribes who receive substantial federal funding are struggling
  • National Parks have become hazardous without staff

#ShutdownStories: The impact of the government shutdown

More on this story:

More women than ever before won seats in Congress in the 2018 mid-terms.

What does it mean for Congress – and America?

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