House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday afternoon that she will not seek another term as her party’s top leader in the House of Representatives. Her decision ends the leadership career of the first woman to ever serve as Speaker of the House, paving the way for the first change in House Democratic leadership in two decades.
“Now we must move boldly into the future,” Pelosi said. “I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress.” She confirmed, however, that she will continue to serve out her term as a House member representing San Francisco.
The announcement comes the day after Republicans secured control of the House for the next two years, despite a disappointing showing in the midterm elections, and less than a month after Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, was attacked with a hammer by an extremist home intruder who was looking for the House Speaker. “We are all grateful for all the prayers and well wishes as he continues his recovery,” she said following the announcement, to a prolonged standing ovation.
Pelosi first ascended to the House Democrats’ top leadership position following the 2002 midterm elections and became Speaker after Democrats regained control of the House in 2006. Pelosi worked with President Barack Obama to deliver the Affordable Care Act, signature legislation that some felt may have cost Democrats the majority in the House until 2018. She returned to the speakership after that election and led two impeachments against former President Donald Trump. She held the position during the first two years of Joe Biden’s presidency, delivering a bipartisan infrastructure bill and the largest climate bill in U.S. history. She recalled these achievements and others during her speech on Thursday, often to standing ovations from her fellow House Democrats in the chamber.
Pelosi’s second term as Speaker had been secured amid a rebellion from a few dozen congressional Democrats, who’d made campaign vows to not confirm Pelosi to the role. Pelosi earned their support by promising to step down from the role after the 2022 elections — a promise she kept on the House floor on Thursday. “For me the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” said Pelosi.
Pelosi’s retreat clears the way for a new generation of Democrats to ascend to the top leadership post in 20 years. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), currently the House’s fifth-ranking Democrat, is widely expected to announce his bid for House minority leader and, so far, has consolidated support among his colleagues. So far, Jeffries seems to have consolidated support among his Democratic colleagues, who would only speak in hypotheticals ahead of Pelosi’s announcement.
Jeffries’ bid is part of a loose slate of younger leaders to replace a trio of octogenarians who currently sit atop the House Democratic caucus. Rep. Katherine Clark, a Massachusetts progressive and the current fourth-ranking House Democrat, and Rep. Pete Aguilar, a fellow California Democrat, are expected to seek the second and third posts currently held by House majority leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and majority whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.). Hoyer said that he, too, is stepping down from his post. Clyburn noted that he looks forward to “doing whatever I can to assist our new generation of Democratic Leaders which I hope to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar.”
Their influence could very well linger over the new leaders, with Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn all presenting themselves as transitional advisors in their emeritus capacities.
In her remarks, Pelosi expressed reverence for the “sacred ground” of the U.S. Capitol, recalling her first time at the building with her father, who served as a Baltimore-area congressman when Pelosi was a child. “It is a temple of our democracy, our constitution, our highest ideals,” she said. She noted the “fragility” of democracy and called the 2022 midterms a “resounding” defeat against assaults against in — including the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection on the floor from which she spoke.
“This House is charged by the Constitution to preserve and protect,” Pelosi said. “Now we owe the American people our very best to deserve their faith.”