Democrats elect first female House speaker

Jubilant Democrats prepared to elect Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the first woman to run the House of Representatives as the party takes control of both chambers of Congress for the first time in 12 years. House Democrats planned quick action on legislative priorities that included boosting both the minimum wage and stem cell research. Democrats also said they would pressure President George W. Bush to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq. The new Congress was convening at noon (1700 GMT) Thursday, with Democrats still adjusting to the trappings of power, while Republicans grappled with their new role in the minority. Pelosi, taking over as House speaker, promised immediate steps to ban gifts from lobbyists and to clamp down on travel funded by private interests. Democrats also planned to vote next week to raise the federal minimum wage, increase federal support for stem cell research and allow the government to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices on prescription drugs for elderly Americans covered by the government-run Medicare health insurance program.