For the first time in two decades, House Democrats will have a new leader.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the key American political figures of the 21st century, announced in an emotional floor speech Thursday that she will step down from her leadership post.
“With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi, 82, also announced she would stay in the House and continue representing her district in San Francisco, which she’s done since 1987.
In 2002, Pelosi became the first woman elected to lead either major party in the House, and in 2007 became the first woman elected speaker. As Speaker, she was the highest ranking woman elected official in U.S. history, until the election of Vice President Kamala Harris. “Never did I think I’d go from homemaker to House Speaker,” Pelosi said in remarks on the House floor Thursday.
“When I came into Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women,” Pelosi said. “Now there are over 90, and we want more.”
After Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Pelosi helped usher through passage of his landmark legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
After eight more years in the minority, Pelosi regained the speakership after the 2018 midterms, cutting a deal with moderates in which she promised to step down after four years. She has led the House for the past four years, including through the two impeachments of former President Donald Trump. (During her remarks Thursday, Pelosi pointedly said she’d worked with three presidents as House Speaker — former President George W. Bush, Obama, and President Joe Biden — not four.)
Pelosi’s party officially lost the House in last Tuesday’s elections, though Republicans will regain the majority in January with a much slimmer margin than they expected.
Pelosi has long been one of the right’s most vilified figures, and was a target of rioters who breached the Capitol on January 6.
This took on added significance last month after a right-wing extremist broke into her San Francisco home and attacked her husband, Paul Pelosi, with a hammer. The man shouted “Where’s Nancy?” and sought to break Nancy Pelosi’s kneecaps with a hammer, according to police.
House Democrats have not held their leadership elections for the next session yet, though New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is reportedly the frontrunner to replace her. Jeffries, a moderate, would be the first person of color to lead a major party in Congress.
“For me, the hour’s come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” Pelosi said on Thursday. “And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.”
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