At Clinton School in Little Rock, Nancy Pelosi Defends Federal Health Care

LITTLE ROCK - U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi defended passage of the federal health care overhaul Thursday during a visit to Arkansas.

"Many members of Congress believe that passing the Affordable Care Act was the most monumental achievement in our own lives of public service," Pelosi told the hundreds gathered in Little Rock at an event organized by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.

Pelosi received a standing ovation when she took the stage shortly before praising the federal health care law. But that law and Pelosi herself have faced criticism here in Arkansas, where Republicans now control the Legislature for the first time in more than a century.

Pelosi's visit to Arkansas also comes as two former congressmen are vying to replace Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is term-limited and can't run for re-election in 2014.

Former U.S. Rep. Asa Hutchinson is among the candidates seeking the Republican nomination, while former U.S. Rep. Mike Ross is among those seeking the Democratic nomination.

Neither attended Pelosi's speech, and Republicans seized on Ross' absence as a chance to criticize him.

"We also hope her visit will remind Arkansas voters that Mike Ross supported Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House on four separate occasions," Arkansas GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said in a statement Thursday. "With that kind of judgment for Speaker, we can't wait to see what Mike Ross plans for Arkansas."

A spokesman for Ross declined to comment.

Pelosi, meanwhile, said she was pleased to have the support of Ross and two other colleagues with Arkansas ties - former Reps. Vic Snyder and Marion Berry - and in her quest for leadership.

Pelosi, of California, has served in the U.S. House of Representatives for more than two decades. She was the first woman to become speaker of the House, a position she held from 2007 to 2011, and, on Thursday, she said she prayed that Hillary Clinton would run for president.

"Let's set aside for a moment the fact that she's a woman," Pelosi said. "As a person, she will be the most qualified person to enter the White House in modern history."

Pelosi ticked off some of Clinton's former titles - first lady, senator and secretary of state - and quipped that perhaps Clinton would address her plans Friday at the dedication of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock.

"Maybe you'll find out tomorrow at the airport, but I don't think so," Pelosi said.

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