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Nancy Pelosi On The 'Awesome Power' Of The House Speakership

"A speaker is the speaker of the House ... he cannot give his gavel to a small percentage of his party," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. told NPR.

The news of John Boehner's resignation as Speaker of the House has many wondering what comes next in such a deeply divided Congress.

NPR's Rachel Martin spoke with House Democratic Leader and former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about the role of the speaker and her take on the current climate of the House. She said it has a full agenda and that it can "be one that is a successful path to the future or it can be a calendar of chaos, and that really is up to the Republicans."

Interview Highlights

On current climate of the House

What is happening now is, I think, highly detrimental to the institution and to the Congress because we have a party saying they are going to vacate the chair unless the speaker does the bidding of some members of their party. A speaker is the speaker of the House. He should respect, of course, the views of all members — his name is proposed by his party's elected — but he is the speaker of the House and he cannot give his gavel to a small percentage of his party.

On the reality of being speaker

Well, the speaker has awesome power. Make no mistake about that. In the Senate, you have to get 60 [votes] over there, there are different considerations on how you bring something to the floor and how you pass a law. But in the House, the speaker has awesome power. He or she is able to set the legislative agenda to affect the timing of how legislation is brought to the floor. And you also have the power of recognition as to whom you will recognize in order to bring up a subject or speak on legislation. That really is a big deal. It's about time. Who gets the time on the floor.

On Kevin McCarthy, who is running to be the next speaker of the House

I don't know — I haven't had the experience of working legislatively with Kevin McCarthy. Obviously, if he's the choice of the Republicans then I would wish him well.

On sitting down with Kevin McCarthy to bridge the ideological divide

When he becomes speaker, then we will have that opportunity, I'm sure. That would be up to him. When they have a new speaker, then it would be my hope that we would all be able to find a path forward that works for everyone recognizing that we want whatever solutions we come up with to be sustainable.

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