Pelosi to step down from House leadership, stay in Congress


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she’s going to not seek a leadership position in the brand new Congress, ending a historic run as the primary woman with the gavel and making way for a recent generation to steer the party after Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans in the midterm elections.

In a spirited speech on the House floor, Pelosi announced that she’s going to step aside after leading Democrats for nearly 20 years and within the aftermath of the brutal attack on her husband, Paul, last month of their San Francisco home — and after having done “the people’s work.”

The California Democrat, a pivotal figure in U.S. history and maybe essentially the most powerful speaker in modern times, said she would remain in Congress because the representative from San Francisco, a position she has held for 35 years, when the brand new Congress convenes in January.

“I is not going to seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the following Congress,” she said. “For me, the hour has come for a recent generation to steer the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”

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

Wearing white in a nod to the suffragettes, Pelosi was greeted with cheers as she arrived for the rapidly called address. She received a standing ovation when she closed, lawmakers and guests one after the other crowding her with hugs, many taking selfies of a moment in history.

President Joe Biden, who had encouraged Pelosi to remain on as Democratic leader, spoke with Pelosi within the morning and congratulated her on her historic tenure as speaker of the House.

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

It’s an unusual alternative for a celebration leader to remain on after withdrawing from congressional leadership, but not without precedent and Pelosi has long defied convention in pursuing power in Washington.

In an interview with reporters after her announcement, Pelosi said she won’t endorse anyone within the race to succeed her and he or she won’t sit on any committees as a rank-and-file lawmaker. She said the attack on her husband “made me re-examine about staying.”

But in the long run, after the election, she decided to step down.

“I quite frankly, personally, have been ready to depart for some time,” she said. “Because there are things I need to do. I wish to dance, I wish to sing. There’s a life on the market, right?”

During her remarks on the House floor, Pelosi recapped her profession, from seeing the Capitol the primary time as a young girl along with her father — a former Latest Deal congressman and mayor — to serving as speaker alongside U.S. presidents, noting three of the 4, but not mentioning Donald Trump.

“Day-after-day I’m in awe of the majestic miracle that’s American democracy,” she said.

At one point, she compared the better-than-expected showing for Democrats within the midterms, the primary national election after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, as “proof through the night that our flag was still there,” drawing cheers from colleagues.

The American historian Jon Meacham helped Pelosi along with her speech, but an aide said she added that impromptu line herself.

On short notice, lawmakers who’ve been waiting and wondering concerning the long-serving leader’s plans filled the House, a minimum of on the Democratic side, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined. He later joined a throng of lawmakers and hugged and kissed Pelosi on the cheek.

The Speaker’s Gallery was crammed with Pelosi’s staff and guests. Some Republicans, including some newly elected members, also attended, though House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, who’s searching for the speakership in the brand new Congress, didn’t, telling reporters afterward that he was “busy, unfortunately.”

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

Her decision Thursday paves the best way for House Democratic leadership elections next month when Democrats reorganize because the minority party for the brand new Congress.

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 of their 80s, the three House Democratic leaders have faced restless colleagues longing for them to step aside and permit a recent generation to take charge.

Hoyer said after Pelosi’s remarks that “it’s the time for a recent generation of leaders” and that he may also step down from leadership but stay in Congress. Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black American in Congress, has said he expects to remain in Congress next 12 months and hopes to stay on the leadership table.

Democratic Reps. Hakeem Jeffries of Latest York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California have similarly moved as a trio, all working toward becoming the following generation of leaders. Jeffries could make history in the long run if Democrats regain control, and he enters the race to change into the nation’s first Black speaker of the House.

First elected in 1987, Pelosi was amongst a dozen Democratic women in Congress. She was long ridiculed by Republicans as a San Francisco liberal while steadily rising as a talented legislator and fundraising powerhouse. Her own Democratic colleagues have intermittently appreciated but in addition feared her powerful brand of leadership.

Pelosi first became speaker in 2007, saying she had cracked the “marble ceiling,” after Democrats swept to power within 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, within the Trump era, she vowed “to indicate the facility of the gavel.”

Pelosi has repeatedly withstood leadership challenges through the years and had suggested in 2018 she would serve 4 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 center the night searching for the Democratic leader. The intruder’s query — “Where is Nancy?” — echoed the chants of the pro-Trump rioters on the Capitol 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.

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

Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.

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