Christiane Amanpour’s full interview with Nancy Pelosi airs on CNN International at 7 p.m. CET and 10 p.m. ET, and on PBS across the United States at 10 p.m. ET.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who served as the first woman Speaker of the US House of Representatives, told CNN that while “it’s time for new blood” in her party, she also thinks it’s a gamble in the current political climate for her not to be at the negotiating table.
“If Hillary Clinton had won, and the Affordable Care Act was protected – I feel very proprietary about that – I was happy to go my way,” Pelosi told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Friday in an interview for her new hour-long program, which premieres on CNN International and PBS on Monday.
Pelosi added that it’s “up to the caucus” to determine who leads her party, “but to have no woman at the table and to have the Affordable Care Act at risk, I said ‘As long as (Trump’s) here, I’m here.’”
Pelosi also said that if this fall’s midterms were held immediately that her party would take back control of the chamber and that “women would lead the way.”
“If the election were held today, we would win overwhelmingly and women would lead the way,” she said. “We have so many excellent women candidates from women across the country. Women marched and then they ran, and now they’re running and now they’re going to be members of Congress.”
Making the Time cover
Pelosi, who is poised to possibly resume her former title if Democrats win this fall, also told CNN it was “long overdue” that she finally graced the cover of TIME last week, the first time she’s ever had top billing on a national news magazine.
She said that the magazine “didn’t understand the stark significance” of a woman becoming second-in-line to the presidency when she was elected Speaker in 2006.
“I don’t think too much about it, but I do think that other women did,” she said about not making the cover last decade. “It’s long overdue. I thought maybe when we passed the Affordable Care Act, expanding health care to so many millions more people and the rest, that that might get their attention, but it didn’t.”
She continued, “But anyway, it’s here now and that’s nice, but I think a lot of women are thinking, ‘Why now? Why did it take so long?’ You’d have to ask them.”
‘Impeachment is a very divisive approach’
With Democrats currently leading generic polls to win control of the House in November, Pelosi is on the brink of potentially becoming speaker again.
It’s no guarantee, however. Dozens of Democratic candidates, due to her polarizing popularity, have campaigned on not supporting Pelosi for the speakership. And in 2016, Ohio Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan challenged Pelosi for minority leader, winning nearly a third of the caucus’ support.
Pelosi has a legislative agenda if Democrats take back the House – lower health care costs, increase wages, tighten gun laws – but the party also plans to target what they call a “culture of corruption” in Washington, using oversight power to hold hearings and issue subpoenas.
With so many controversies that have outraged Democrats under the Trump administration, the list is long for issues that Democrats want to target when it comes to oversight. Pelosi warned that Democrats must be strategic in their investigations.
“It has to be prioritized and not scatter shot. … It’s all about seeking truth,” she said. “Where that takes us with the President and his performance remains to be seen.”
A small number of Democrats in Congress are already clamoring for impeachment of the US President, but Pelosi is trying to keep that temptation among her party under control, saying the i-word is not a priority.
“Our priority (is) unifying. Impeachment is a very divisive approach. Elections should determine who is in office,” she said. “If the President has broken law, he’s not above the law, but that remains to be seen.”
‘I can take the heat’
As for her own political future, the California Democrat, who’s raised hundreds of millions of dollars for her party, said she feels “very comfortable” about her support for the speakership.
“I think it’s really important for women to see, because you can’t run away from a fight in the arena … when the Republicans have such a poverty of ideas that the only thing they can put in their ads is that I’m a San Francisco liberal who supports LGBTQ rights, I can take the heat,” she said, adding later, “I want women to know that this isn’t easy, power is never given away and it always has to be fought for.”
Pelosi said she was encouraged, however, by the droves of women running for office this year, calling it a “very transformative time.”
“Nothing is more wholesome for America, for our system of government and politics than the increased participation of women in our leadership and their participation in our government,” she said. “I honestly believe if we decrease the role of money in politics and increase the level of civility in politics, we’ll even have many more women who will go forward, enter the arena, win the fight (and) make a difference.”
Correction: This story has been updated to correct the Speaker of the House's place in the presidential line of succession.