Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi announced today that she will not seek a leadership position in the new Congress, a pivotal realignment paving the way for a new generation of leaders following the Democrats' loss of control of the House to the Republicans in the midterm elections.
Pelosi announced in a fiery speech on the House floor that she will resign after nearly two decades of leading the Democrats and following the attack on her husband, Paul, in their San Francisco home last month.
When the new Congress convenes in January, the California Democrat who became the nation's first woman to wield the gavel said she would remain in Congress as the representative from San Francisco, a position she has held for 35 years.
Pelosi stated, "Now we must move boldly into the future."
Pelosi stated, "I will not seek re-election to the Democratic leadership in the next Congress." "The time has come, in my opinion, for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus, which I hold in such high regard."
Pelosi received a standing ovation following her remarks, and lawmakers and guests approached her individually to offer hugs, with many taking selfies to commemorate the historic moment.
The White House reported that President Joe Biden spoke with Pelosi in the morning and congratulated her on her historic tenure as speaker of the House.
It is unusual for a party leader to remain after resigning from congressional leadership, but Pelosi has long defied convention in her pursuit of power in Washington, so her decision is fitting.
Pelosi recounted her career, from visiting the Capitol with her father, a former congressman and mayor, as a young girl, to serving as a speaker alongside US presidents and doing "the work of the people."
She stated, "Every day I am in charge of the magnificent miracle of American democracy."
Democrats applauded Pelosi as she entered the chamber at noon local time. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer joined the House of Representatives on short notice. The Speaker's Gallery was filled with staff and guests of Nancy Pelosi. Republicans, including some newly-elected representatives, were also present.
Shortly after the speaker concluded her speech, Schumer exchanged a long hug and peck on the cheek with her.
Pelosi had previously stated in a statement issued after The Associated Press called the chamber's control that, in the next Congress, the House Democrats will have "significant leverage over a slender Republican majority."
As the first woman to become a speaker and the only person in decades to be twice elected to the position, she has led Democrats through significant moments, including the passage of the Affordable Care Act with President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump's impeachment.
By announcing her decision, Pelosi could set off a domino effect in the House Democratic leadership before next month's internal party elections, as Democrats reorganize as the minority party for the incoming Congress.
Pelosi's leadership team, consisting of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, has operated as a triumvirate for a considerable amount of time. Hoyer and Clyburn are also deciding their respective futures.
The three Democratic leaders of the House, who are all now in their 80s, have encountered restless colleagues eager for them to cede power to a younger generation.
Representatives Hakeem Jeffries (New York), Katherine Clark (Massachusetts), and Pete Aguilar (California) of the Democratic Party are all working toward becoming the next generation of political leaders. Jeffries could make history if he runs for the position of the nation's first black House speaker.
On Capitol Hill, there was a theory that Pelosi and the others could become emeritus leaders as they pass the torch to new Democrats.
Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress, has stated that he has no desire to be a speaker or minority leader at this point in his life, but he expects to remain in Congress next year.
A week after the midterms, Clyburn stated, "I do wish to remain at the leadership table." I'll defer to our Democratic caucus on what capacity this will be.
Hoyer has not discussed his plans publicly.
Pelosi, first elected in 1987, has been a pivotal figure in American politics, long ridiculed by Republicans as a liberal from San Francisco while steadily ascending as a skilled legislator and fundraising powerhouse. Her Democratic colleagues have alternately admired and feared her authoritative style of leadership.
Pelosi became a speaker for the first time in 2007, declaring that she had broken through the "marble ceiling" after Democrats swept to power in the 2006 midterm elections as a backlash to then-President George W. Bush and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
When she was poised to return as speaker in 2018, during the Trump administration, she vowed to "display the power of the gavel."
Pelosi has endured numerous leadership challenges over the years and indicated in 2018 that she would continue to serve as a leader for another four years. However, she had not mentioned these plans recently.
On the eve of the midterm elections, Pelosi displayed a rare display of emotion as she held back tears while discussing the grave assault on her husband of nearly 60 years.
Paul Pelosi suffered a fractured skull after an intruder broke into their home searching for the Democratic leader in the middle of the night. The intruder's question, "Where is Nancy?" echoed the chants of pro-Trump rioters at the Capitol on January 6, 2021, as they searched for Pelosi and attempted to prevent Congress from certifying Joe Biden's election victory over Donald Trump.
According to the authorities, David DePape is being held without bail on attempted murder and other charges stemming from a political attack. The police report that DePape broke into Paul Pelosi's home and awoke him. The two allegedly struggled over a hammer before DePape struck the 82-year-old on the head. DePape, 42, pled not guilty to federal charges of attempting to kidnap a federal official and assaulting a family member of a federal official.
Paul Pelosi was hospitalized for one week but is expected to make a full recovery, though his wife has stated that it will be a long road.
Speaker Pelosi would not discuss her political plans at the time, revealing only that the attack on her husband would influence her decision.
Historians have noted that other significant political figures had careers as rank-and-file members of Congress, including former president John Quincy Adams, who served nearly 18 years in Congress.