Nancy Pelosi, who has served as the House Democratic Caucus leader since 2003 and became the first female Speaker of the House, will step down from her leadership position, the 82-year-old congresswoman from California announced on Thursday.
“I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” she said.
She said she will remain committed to representing her San Francisco congressional district.
In her speech to House Members, Pelosi acknowledged the fragility of American democracy, but said that she was confident about the future after voters last week largely rejected Trump-backed, election-denying candidates.
She wore a white suit -- which Democrats have used to symbolize women’s equality --with a gold mace brooch, a trinket she brandishes on momentous House events like the impeachment vote of former President Donald Trump.
“Now we must move boldly into the future, grounded by the principles that have propelled us this far and open to fresh possibilities for the future,” she said.
After her announcement, several Democrat lawmakers circled the speaker to give her a hug, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer who stopped in to give his regards. Although only few Republicans were present for the announcement -- mostly incoming freshmen -- all stood up and applauded the Speaker.
In a statement, President Joe Biden called the Speaker a “fierce defender of democracy” and the “most consequential” House speaker in U.S. history
Pelosi’s decision paves the way for the party to usher in a new leader for the first time in almost two decades, setting up a philosophical battle as House Democrats determine whether they prefer a moderate leader well-established within the party, or a younger, more progressive candidate.
Pelosi had largely remained silent on whether she would pursue another term as leader. In an interview with CNN, the congresswoman said that the recent home invasion and violent assault of her husband, Paul Pelosi, had impacted her decision about her career’s future, but did not elaborate on what that would entail.
One of the most consequential Congressional leaders in history, Pelosi led her party through a tumultuous era that included the war in Iraq under President George W. Bush, the passage of the Affordable Care Act under President Obama, its defense against multiple repeal attempts under President Trump, and two impeachment votes.
Most recently, she played a key role in passing President Biden’s agenda — including a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief measure, a bipartisan infrastructure package, a major domestic manufacturing law, and the climate-focused Inflation Reduction Act — despite narrow margins and a caucus split between moderates and progressives.
Minutes after the speech, Pelosi’s second-in-command, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced that he would not seek re-election for caucus leadership and instead would endorse Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York for Democratic leader, his office announced.
Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina -- who some Capitol Hill watchers had named a likely contender for Democratic leader -- announced that he will instead run for assistant Democrat leader and also endorse Jeffries, Punchbowl News reported.