Pelosi to Step Down from Democratic Leadership Role, Will Remain in Congress

Nancy Pelosi

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

By LISA MASCARO AP Congressional Correspondent

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she will not seek a leadership position in the new Congress, making way for a new generation to steer the party after Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans in the midterm elections.

Pelosi announced on the House floor that she will step aside after leading Democrats for nearly 20 years and in the aftermath of the brutal attack on her husband, Paul, last month in their San Francisco home.

The California Democrat, who rose to become the nation’s only woman to wield the speaker’s gavel, said she would remain in Congress as the representative from San Francisco, a position she has held for 35 years, when the new Congress convenes in January.

“I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” she said. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”

Now, she said, “we must move boldly into the future.”

Pelosi received a standing ovation after her remarks, and lawmakers and guests one by one went up to offer her hugs, many taking selfies of a moment in history. President Joe Biden spoke with Pelosi in the morning and congratulated her on her historic tenure as speaker of the House.

“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history,” Biden said in a statement, noting her ability to win unity from her caucus and her “absolute dignity.”

It’s an unusual choice for a party leader to stay on after withdrawing from congressional leadership but Pelosi has long defied convention in pursuing power in Washington.

The Speaker’s Gallery filled with Pelosi staff and guest. Some Republicans, including some newly elected members, also attended, though House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s seeking the speakership in the new Congress, did not.

Pelosi was twice elected to the speakership and has led Democrats through consequential moments, including passage of the Affordable Care Act with President Barack Obama and the impeachments of President Donald Trump.

Pelosi’s leadership team, with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, has long moved as a triumvirate. All now in their 80s, the three House Democratic leaders have faced restless colleagues eager for them to step aside and allow a new generation to take charge.

First elected in 1987, Pelosi has been a pivotal figure in American politics, long ridiculed by Republicans as a San Francisco liberal while steadily rising as a skilled legislator and fundraising powerhouse. Her own Democratic colleagues have intermittently appreciated but also feared her powerful brand of leadership.

Pelosi first became speaker in 2007, saying she had cracked the “marble ceiling,” after Democrats swept to power in the 2006 midterm elections in a backlash to then-President George W. Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When she was poised in 2018 to return as speaker, in the Trump era, she vowed “to show the power of the gavel.”

Pelosi has repeatedly withstood leadership challenges over the years and had suggested in 2018 she would serve four more years as leader. But she had not discussed those plans more recently.

Typically unsentimental, Pelosi let show a rare moment of emotion on the eve of the midterm elections as she held back tears discussing the grave assault on her husband of nearly 60 years.

Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull after an intruder broke into their home in the middle the night seeking the Democratic leader. The intruder’s question — “Where is Nancy?” — echoed the chants of the pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as they hunted for Pelosi and tried to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden’s election victory over Trump.

David DePape is being held without bail on attempted murder and other charges in what authorities said was a political attack. Police said DePape broke in and woke up Paul Pelosi, and the two struggled over a hammer before DePape struck the 82-year-old on the head.

Paul Pelosi was hospitalized for a week but is expected to recover, though his wife has said it will be a long haul. At the time, Pelosi would not discuss her political plans but would only disclose that the attack on her husband would affect her decision.

Historians have noted that other consequential political figures had careers later as rank-and-file members of Congress, including John Quincy Adams, the former president, who went on to serve for nearly 18 years in Congress.

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

 

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