Women Gain on Capitol Hill: Russert Asks About Age
Nancy Pelosi was peppered with questions about her decision to stay on as Democratic leader on Wednesday, but one particular inquiry set her off: on her age.
It came from NBC's Luke Russert, who asked whether Pelosi's move blocks a new generation of Democratic leaders. Pelosi is 72 years old, and her next two deputies — House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and Assistant Leader James Clyburn — are 73 and 72.
"Some of your colleagues privately say that your decision to stay on prohibits the party from having a younger leadership and hurts the party in the long run," Russert said. "What's your response?"
Even before he could finish his question, the dozens of female House Democrats standing behind Pelosi — both veteran lawmakers and newly-elected freshmen — began booing the reporter. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is 66, shouted: "Discrimination! Discrimination! Discrimination!"
"Oh, you always ask that question, except to Mitch McConnell," Pelosi replied.
When Russert pressed further, Pelosi responded: "So you're suggesting that everybody step aside? ... Let's for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it's quite offensive. But you don't realize that, I guess."
Pelosi then went on to defend her record on electing younger and newer faces to Congress, particularly women, in her 25 years on Capitol Hill.
"I came to Congress when my youngest child, Alexandra, was a senior in high school, practically on her way to college," Pelosi began. "I knew that my male colleagues had come when they were 30. They had a jump on me because they didn't have children. I did what i wanted to do, I was blessed to have that opportunity to sequentially raise my family and then come to Congress, but I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age, so that their seniority would start to count much sooner.
"It wasn't confined to women, although we wanted to keep bringing in younger people and some of the decisions that we made over the years to invest when we won the House in 2006 and races before and since was to encourage people to come," Pelosi continued. "So I don't have any concern about that, and as I've always said to you, you've got to take off about 14 years from me because i was home raising a family, getting the best experience of all -- diplomacy, interpersonal skills."
So Pelosi's response to Russert's original question? "The answer is no," she said.