Nancy Pelosi—now confirmed as House speaker—has said the U.S. Constitution considers her equal to President Donald Trump. The two are set to fight multiple battles over the course of the new Congress.
Speaking to The New York Times in an interview published Thursday, Pelosi indicated she intends to make her voice heard and influence felt during her second stint as speaker. She won the contest for the gavel against House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy by 220 votes to 192.
Pelosi is now second-in-line to the presidency should Trump become unable to execute his duties, whether through resignation or some other form of removal from office. As speaker of the House, she is next behind Vice President Mike Pence.
When asked by the Times whether she considers herself equal to Trump, she replied: “The Constitution does.”
Having become the first politician to be elected speaker in nonconsecutive Congresses since 1955, 78-year-old Pelosi praised the diverse intake of representatives who took their seats Thursday and said she hopes they will usher in a new era of American politics.
The 166th Congress includes the most women in history with 125 total—102 in the House and 23 in the Senate. The Times noted that there were just 23 women in total when Pelosi joined the House in 1987.
In her interview, the speaker recalled a dinner at the White House last year during when men spoke over her, provoking her to ask, “Doesn’t anybody listen to a woman in the room?” Pelosi said that with the new intake, “hopefully that will become a thing of the past now that we have so many women in Congress—and with the gavel.”
“The gavel makes a big difference,” the California lawmaker added.
Though Pelosi is one of the giants of the Democratic Party, her bid to reclaim the speakership did face internal opposition from both incoming and incumbent members of the new Congress. Indeed, 12 Democrats voted for candidates other than Pelosi on Thursday.
She eventually agreed to limit her term to four years in a bid to soothe some of her more vociferous opponents. Nonetheless, Pelosi said she is well-versed in managing internal politicking. “I’m used to, shall we say, enthusiasms from all elements of the party—I can roll with that,” she told the Times.
The Trump administration is facing a new and worrying era with Pelosi as the face of the congressional oversight and investigation. Meanwhile, her Democratic colleagues are keen to use their newly won powers to apply the pressure the president has been able to avoid while Republicans held House and Senate majorities.
“Our nation is at a historic moment,” Pelosi said in a statement to reporters. “Two months ago, the American people spoke and demanded a new dawn.” In her victory speech to the House, the California lawmaker praised the “transformative freshman class” of politicians who took their sears Thursday and encouraged Democrats to be “pioneers of the future.”
She takes the gavel as the federal government remains in a partial shutdown that began on December 22. The Democrats are at loggerheads with the president over his demand for $5 billion in funding for his contentious border wall, which remains elusive as he enters the third year of his term.
Pelosi has vowed to prioritize solutions to end the shutdown, which has left around 800,000 federal workers furloughed or working without pay. However, she has refused to entertain the idea of releasing the funds Trump is demanding.
Speaking with NBC, she declared the president would get “nothing for the wall.”