House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she would not seek re-election to her leadership role in Congress, ending a two-decade streak as top House Democrat, in which she became the first woman to head the chamber became.
Pelosi, speaking on the House floor, said she will remain a member of Congress and serve the term to which she was just elected.
“With great faith in our group, I will not seek re-election to the Democratic leadership next Congress,” Pelosi said amid applause during the 14-minute speech.
“For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Congress that I respect so much,” Pelosi said. “And I’m grateful that so many are ready and willing to take on this tremendous responsibility.”
The announcement came a day after news outlets predicted that the Democrats would narrowly lose their majority in the House of Representatives to the Republicans after the midterm elections.
US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California, speaks in the Chamber of Representatives at the US Capitol on Thursday, November 17, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Ting Shen | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Pelosi, 82, has kept her future plans under wraps after the midterm elections, when Democrats have been beating expectations up and down. Republicans, who figured a “red wave” would give them an overwhelming majority in Congress, will instead take a slim lead in the House of Representatives, NBC News estimates.
Pelosi has also said that a recent attack on her husband Paul Pelosi by a hammer-wielding intruder would influence her decision on whether to remain in charge.
Current House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is considered the front runner for Speaker in the next Congress. On Tuesday, McCarthy won a party vote to become the GOP nominee for speaker, despite receiving fewer votes than the 218 he would need when the entire House casts its leadership votes in early January.
Much remains unclear about how the change in leadership of the House of Representatives will shake the top echelons of Democrats. House majority Steny Hoyer, D-Md., has served under Pelosi for years – but the 83-year-old later announced on Thursday that he too would decline to aspire to a top position.
“I have decided not to seek elected leadership in the 118th Congress,” Hoyer said in a letter from his office. Like Pelosi, Hoyer said he plans to continue serving in Congress “and to return as a member of the Appropriations Committee to complete the work that I have been involved in for many years.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are looking for younger figures to inaugurate a new generation of leaders. In the letter, Hoyer threw his support behind 52-year-old New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to become the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. “He is an experienced and capable leader who will help us regain majority control in 2024 as we strive to continue delivering on our promises to the American people,” Hoyer wrote.
House Majority Whip James Clyburn, the influential veteran Democrat from South Carolina, also endorsed Jeffries for Democratic leadership, along with Rep. No. 4 Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California.
Elected to Congress in 1987, Pelosi became the highest-ranking woman in Congressional history in 2002 when she was elected House Minority Whip after that year’s Midterms. She became minority leader in the House of Representatives in 2003 and rose to become Speaker of the House after the Democrats regained a majority in 2006.
In her two terms as Speaker, Pelosi presided over a laundry list of major political milestones and crises, as well as two impeachment trials against then-President Donald Trump. She navigated Congress during the 2008 financial crisis, the tumultuous battle to pass the Affordable Care Act and efforts to turn over trillions of dollars in coronavirus-related relief funds. More recently, she steered the House of Representatives to pass a major infrastructure bill and the sweeping legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes tax and health provisions.
Pelosi, whose relationship with Trump was notoriously strained, completely ignored this former president in her speech, even as she highlighted her proudest moments during the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Joe Biden.
However, she was clearly pointing to the January 6, 2021 riot in the Capitol by a violent mob of Trump supporters, whose attack forced lawmakers to flee their chambers and temporarily halt efforts to confirm Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
“Indeed, American democracy is majestic, but it is fragile,” Pelosi said. “Many of us here have witnessed its fragility firsthand – tragically in this chamber.”
Biden called her “the most consistent Speaker of the House in our history” in a flattering statement shared shortly after Pelosi’s speech.
The president also noted her “ferocity and determination to protect our democracy” during the Capitol riots and appeared to be referring to the violent attack on Paul Pelosi, who was hospitalized after an attack at the couple’s San Francisco home during Nancy in Washington, DC
“It’s an ongoing threat of political violence and intimidation, and she and her family know it all too well, but that will never stop them from serving our nation,” Biden said in his statement. “She may step down from her leadership role in the House Democratic Caucus, but she will never give up protecting our sacred democracy.”