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March 22nd, 2010
11:04 AM ET

Pelosi emerges as powerhouse in D.C.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/03/21/zelizer.pelosi.leadership/t1larg.pelosi.dems.gavel.gi.jpg caption="U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington."]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN

The passage of health care will certainly rank as one of the major political achievements of recent decades.

Legislation that will eventually extend health care coverage to more than 30 million more Americans, greatly expand the number of options that citizens have when purchasing health care, bring healthy citizens into the pool of the insured and thus lower costs and create important regulations on health care companies will be remembered as one of the biggest domestic policy changes since the Great Society of the 1960s.

While most attention will focus on President Obama for pulling off a Herculean task that eluded many of our great presidents, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi emerges from this battle as the real powerhouse in Washington.

She has pursued a clear ideological agenda but through pragmatic political tactics. Like the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, she stands for something, yet knows how to round up votes.

Since the 2008 election, Pelosi has been the most reliable leader Democrats have had. She has delivered on almost all of the legislation that the White House sent to Congress, even as her colleagues found themselves frustrated by a Senate that seemed incapable of governance.

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