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Pelosi to stay on as Minority Leader

Updated 10:50 a.m. Eastern Time

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California, who has served as the highest-ranking female politician in American history, will stay on as the top Democrat in the House during the coming 113th Congress.

Pelosi's decision comes in the wake of an election in which her party picked up as many as seven House seats but fell short of the 25 necessary to retake control of the chamber. While Pelosi must run for reelection to her minority leadership position, no Democrat has made a move to seriously challenge her.

"From the standpoint of the victory that we had at the polls, I wouldn't think about walking away," she said Wednesday. "We had a fabulous victory."

Pelosi announced her decision to colleagues in a meeting with the House Democratic Caucus. In a news conference afterward, she lauded the diversity of the incoming Congress and noted her caucus will be made up of a majority of women and minorities.

"This picture before you is worth millions of votes, millions of votes," Pelosi said while surrounded be female lawmakers, who she called her "sisters." She added: "As you look forward, understand that you are looking forward into the future, the future of the empowerment of women in America."

Reporters could hear long, sustained applause from outside the meeting when Pelosi announced her decision to colleagues.

Pelosi plans to work to push the president and Congress to agree to a deficit reduction plan that largely protects entitlement programs that Republicans are pushing to reduce funding for. She described Social Security and Medicare as "pillars of economic and health security for Americas seniors," adding that "any adjustments we would make in them would be to make them stronger." 

She said she will also be motivated over the next two years to change the role of money in politics, stating that "our founders had in mind a government of the many, not the government of the money."

Pelosi, a wealthy 72-year-old Baltimore native, has served as the leader of the House Democrats for nearly a decade. She became the first female speaker of the House in 2007. After Republicans retook the House in the 2010 midterm elections, Pelosi fended off a leadership challenge from moderate Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina. Shuler contended that Pelosi, who was linked to vulnerable Democrats in Republican attack ads in the 2010 cycle, was too liberal for the job.

Prior to becoming House Minority Leader in 2003, Pelosi served eight terms in the House, which included a stint as Minority Whip and as ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Hailing from California's staunchly liberal 8th district in San Francisco, Pelosi has been a central player in many of the biggest battles in Washington over the past 10 years, and played a crucial role in sheparding President Obama's health care law through Congress.

A powerful and prolific fundraiser, Pelosi has a strong grip on her caucus, in particular its sizable liberal wing. In response to word she would stay on, Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Commitee deemed it a "good day for progressive power."

National Republican Congressional Committee Communications Director Paul Lindsay, meanwhile, said "This decision signals that House Democrats have absolutely no interest in regaining the trust and confidence of the American people who took the Speaker's gavel away from Nancy Pelosi in the first place."

According to a Democratic leadership aide, Pelosi told colleagues Wednesday morning, "We may not have the gavel, but as I can see in this room, we have the unity."

When Pelosi was asked if her decision to stay in the leadership would keep younger members from rising through the ranks, the women behind her booed, with one yelling, "age discrimination!" Pelosi deemed the quesiton "offensive."

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