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Pelosi: Democrats not out for revenge

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The California Democrat poised to become the next speaker of the House extended an olive branch Wednesday to President Bush -- whom she has frequently criticized -- and to Republicans.

"We're not about wanting to get even," Nancy Pelosi told CNN's "The Situation Room." "What we want to do is help the American people get ahead."

Pelosi likely will be selected in January by the Democratic-led House of Representatives to become the first female speaker. The Democrats wrested control of the House from Republicans in Tuesday's midterm elections. (Full story)

As speaker of the House, Pelosi, 66, would be second in the line of presidential succession, behind the vice president.

"For a woman to break through what I call the 'marble ceiling' here is something quite remarkable," she said. "It sends a message that women can do anything."

Among the things she said she won't do, however, is cut funding for the Iraq war to send a message.

"Our troops are in harm's way, she said. "They have been sent there, whether you agree with the policy or not -- and I certainly did not agree with the resolution to go to war."

She said voters have clearly rejected Bush's "stay the course" policy in Iraq and that the departure Wednesday of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is a positive step. (Watch Nancy Pelosi promise change -- 4:35 Video)

"The president got the message, thank heavens," she said. "I think it signals a new change, I hope for the better, in Iraq."

On whether Rumsfeld's replacement, former CIA Director Robert Gates, might not signal a change after all, Pelosi said the president is the commander in chief, and the secretary of defense is a presidential "employee."

"The policy is the president's. The implementation of the policy is Mr. Rumsfeld. And that's why I think it was very important for him to go," she said.

Congress, she said, can provide oversight and be willing to work with the president and with Republicans to "reach common ground. ... We need a new direction that brings stability to the region and makes the American people safer."

Finding that common ground may seem a difficult task for the two leaders. Each has been critical of the other, and the congresswoman representing liberal San Francisco, California, has been particularly harsh on Bush.

But, she said, contrary to some reports, she has never called him "a liar." And Pelosi told CNN that they can work together.

"The campaign is over. Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way" with Bush and the Congress, she said.

Pelosi, however, has previously said that a Democratic-led Congress will no longer serve as a "rubber stamp" for the president's policies, and that an investigation of events that led to the U.S.-led war in Iraq is likely as part of the checks-and-balances system built into the Constitution.

It is too early to say who will be the committee leaders of the 110th Congress, Pelosi said.

"I haven't finished counting the votes from last night. We don't even know how many Democrats we have."


Rep. Nancy Pelosi told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that Democrats don't want to get even with Republicans.



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