When fiscal cliff legislation passed with mainly Democratic votes, Republicans griped, “Who’s the Speaker?” It was humiliating for the GOP majority to play the handmaiden to minority leader Nancy Pelosi. Asked if the lopsided vote makes her the de facto Speaker of the House, Pelosi demurred, coyly saying “not quite,” and reveling in her renewed clout. After the Democrats failed to regain control of the House in last year’s election, Pelosi appeared headed for a largely symbolic role as leader of the minority party in a chamber where the majority rules with an iron hand.

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