Pelosi to step aside from Dem leadership, remain in Congress

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.

By Associated Press

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 in a spirited speech 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.

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“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.

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

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

“I quite frankly, personally, have been ready to leave for a while,” she said. “Because there are things I want to do. I like to dance; I like to sing. There’s a life out there, right?”

During her remarks on the House floor, Pelosi recapped her career, from seeing the Capitol the first time as a young girl with her father — a former congressman and mayor — to serving as speaker alongside U.S. presidents and doing “the people’s work.”

“Every day I am in awe of the majestic miracle that is American democracy,” she said.

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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.

Her decision Thursday paves the way for House Democratic leadership elections next month when Democrats reorganize as the minority party for the 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 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.

One idea circulating on Capitol Hill was that Pelosi and the others could emerge as emeritus leaders as they pass the baton to new Democrats.