Pelosi preparing to become House speaker as new Congress convenes

Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House of Representatives Minority Leader, Photo Date: 2/20/2018 / Cropped Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0 / (MGN)
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WASHINGTON (AP) - Nancy Pelosi is hours away from taking back the gavel as House speaker when the new Congress convenes and Democrats assume control.

The California Democrat is the only woman who has held the office and will join the few elected officials who returned to it. The last time a speaker regained the gavel was more than a half-century ago.

While Pelosi said she knew this moment would arrive, it wasn't guaranteed. Others had their doubts -- or actively worked against her.

She has spent her political career being underestimated, only to prove the naysayers wrong. In this case, it was by winning back the Democratic majority and amassing the votes for the speaker's job.

Pelosi remains a highly polarizing figure, vilified by Republicans as a San Francisco liberal and caricature of big government.

In remarks prepared for her opening speech, Pelosi is giving a nod to the new era of divided government with a pledge to "reach across the aisle in this chamber and across the divisions in this great nation."

Pelosi said the floor of the House must be "America's Town Hall" and said in her prepared remarks it's a place where people will see debates and where their voices will be heard and affect lawmakers' decisions.

She adds Democratic priorities include lowering health care costs, investing in green infrastructure and "restoring integrity" to government.