I have written several articles on Speaker of the House Pelosi. A list of the links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on the Speaker’s life.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she will relinquish her leadership post after leading House Democrats for two decades, building a legacy as one of the most powerful and polarizing figures in American politics.
Pelosi, the first and only woman to serve as speaker, said that she would continue to serve in the House, giving the next generation the opportunity to lead the House Democrats, who will be in the minority next year despite a better-than-expected midterm election performance.
“I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” said Pelosi in the House chamber. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect, and I’m grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.”
Pelosi, 82, rose to the top of the House Democratic caucus in 2002, after leading many in her party against a resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. She then guided Democrats as they rode the waves of popular opinion, seeing their power swell to a 257-seat majority after the 2008 elections, ultimately crash to a 188-seat minority, and then rise once again.
Her political career was marked by an extraordinary ability to understand and overcome those political shifts, keeping conflicting factions of her party united in passing major legislation. She earned the Speaker’s gavel twice – after the 2006 and 2018 elections – and lost it after the 2010 elections.
Of late, she has conducted a string of accomplishments with one of the slimmest party splits in history, passing a $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package last year and a $750 billion health care, energy and climate bill in August.
Her legislative victories in the Biden era cemented her reputation as one of the most successful party leaders in Congress. During the Obama administration, Pelosi was instrumental to the passage of the massive economic stimulus bill and the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which provides over 35 million Americans health care coverage.
Over the past 20 years, the California liberal has been relentlessly attacked by Republicans, who portray her as the personification of a party for the coastal elite. “We have fired Nancy Pelosi,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Fox News on Wednesday, after Republicans won back the chamber.
In recent years, the anger directed toward her has turned menacing. During the January 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, pro-Trump rioters searched for her — and last month, a male assailant attacked Paul Pelosi, the speaker’s husband, with a hammer at the couple’s home in San Francisco, while she was in Washington.
Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper this month that her decision to retire would be influenced by the politically motivated attack. Paul Pelosi was released from the hospital two weeks ago after surgery to repair a skull fracture and injuries to his arm and hands.
After thanking her colleagues for their well-wishes for Paul, the House chamber broke out into a standing ovation.
Democrats now look to finally choose Pelosi’s successor
Pelosi’s long reign became a source of tension within her own party. She won the gavel after the 2018 elections by promising her own party that she would leave her leadership post by 2022.
Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, who previously tried to oust Pelosi, told CNN it’s time for a new chapter.
“She’s a historic speaker who’s accomplished an incredible amount, but I also think there are a lot of Democrats ready for a new chapter,” said Moulton.
But some Democrats praised Pelosi and said they wished she would remain leader. Asked about her decision, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer clutched his chest and said he had pleaded with her to stay.
“I told her when she called me and told me this and all that, I said ‘please change your mind. We need you here,’” Schumer said.
House Democrats appear likely to choose New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 52, to succeed Pelosi as leader, though Democrats won’t vote until November 30.
After her speech, Pelosi wouldn’t tell reporters who’d she support. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn announced they would also step down from their leadership posts, and endorsed Jeffries to succeed Pelosi. Hoyer said Jeffries “will make history for the institution of the House and for our country.” Clyburn added that he hoped Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark and California Rep. Pete Aguilar would join Jeffries in House Democratic leadership.
Before Pelosi’s announcement, Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN that she expects her caucus to throw their support behind Jeffries, and help him become the first Black House Democratic leader.
“If she steps aside, I’m very clear that Hakeem Jeffries is the person that I will be voting for and leading the Congressional Black Caucus to vote for,” said Beatty.”I don’t always speak for everybody, but I’m very comfortable saying I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries.”
Retiring North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a former CBC chairman, told CNN that Jeffries “is prepared for the moment” if Pelosi steps aside. Butterfield said he thought Jeffries would run.
The longtime Democratic leader told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday that members of her caucus had asked her to “consider” running in the party’s leadership elections at the end of the month, adding: “But, again, let’s just get through the election.”
Any decision to run again, Pelosi said, “is about family, and also my colleagues and what we want to do is go forward in a very unified way, as we go forward to prepare for the Congress at hand.”
“Nonetheless, a great deal is at stake because we’ll be in a presidential election. So my decision will again be rooted in the wishes of my family and the wishes of my caucus,” she continued. “But none of it will be very much considered until we see what the outcome of all of this is. And there are all kinds of ways to exert influence.”
Pelosi is a towering figure in American politics with a history-making legacy of shattering glass ceilings as the first and so far only woman to be speaker of the US House of Representatives.
Pelosi was first elected to the House in 1987, when she won a special election to fill a seat representing California’s 5th Congressional District.
When she was first elected speaker, Pelosi reflected on the significance of the event and what it meant for women in the United States.
“This is an historic moment,” she said in a speech after accepting the speaker’s gavel. “It’s an historic moment for the Congress. It’s an historic moment for the women of America.”
As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said herself, quoting scripture on the House floor Thursday: “For everything there is a season — a time for every purpose under heaven.”
For Pelosi, the season to be leader of House Democrats has passed. She made the right decision this week to step away from leadership in January, when a new Republican majority will take over the House, and the right — even generous — decision to stay in Congress for now. She’ll continue to represent San Francisco while serving as an invaluable source of guidance and resolve for the next generation of House Democratic leaders.
Pelosi’s decision to step aside is also important for sending the message that politicians can keep their promises. She now fulfills a pledge she made in 2018.
At 82, Pelosi is a historic figure, of course: the first female House speaker and one of the strongest speakers, if not the strongest, that America has ever seen. She has endured through the tea party movement and the Trump era, a recession, a pandemic, a violent coup attempt at the Capitol and a brutal hammer attack on her husband apparently inspired by irrational hatred of her.
“She has been the steady hand on the gavel during some of the most turbulent times the nation has ever confronted,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 52, chair of the Democratic Caucus and Pelosi’s likely successor.
But more than surviving and enduring, she has prevailed — sometimes when the odds seemed longest. Democrats have a reputation for fretful insecurity, also known as bed-wetting. Pelosi is the opposite. She’s typically positive, sometimes irrationally so, but her optimism and confidence send “yes we can” messages that raise morale and often pay off.
Yet as a minority in a GOP-run House, Democrats won’t be able to rack up accomplishments like they did in the last two years. Beyond that, it’s past time for a leadership shift. Younger Democrats — and by that we’re talking anyone younger than Pelosi and her two 80-something lieutenants, Reps. Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn — have been waiting forever to rise in the ranks. As Punchbowl News put it, “Generations of ambitious Democrats have come and gone from the House, stifled under a leadership that has been in place for two decades.”
Last week, with Republicans headed for a narrow House majority rather than a crushing victory, President Joe Biden told Pelosi, “I hope you stick,” Politico reported. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer felt the same way: “I hope she does, I love her,” he said.
But tangling with a Republican speaker and a majority out for investigative blood could not have been a tempting prospect, especially for a results-oriented leader whose policy goals will now be largely and perhaps entirely unattainable — and for a wife whose husband faces a long recovery from serious injuries.
There were calls for Pelosi to step aside in 2010 when Democrats lost 60 House seats — a true wipeout. “When you have the largest turnover since 1948, then it’s time to shake things up,” then-Rep. Jim Matheson of Utah, co-chair of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, said at the time. Another Blue Dog, Heath Shuler, said he’d run against Pelosi for minority leader. Lawmakers from New York and Oklahoma said she should resign.
She resisted those calls and held on as minority leader through eight years of House Republican majorities, as historic 2010 GOP gains in state legislatures led to new House maps that favored Republicans. Democrats finally rebounded in 2018, thanks to President Donald Trump.
It is now hard to imagine the last 20 years without Pelosi in the speaker’s chair for eight of them, an example to women and the nation of what Jeffries called “the power of possibility.” He is looking to make demographic history of his own this month. If he wins the Nov. 30 vote for Democratic leader, as expected, he’ll be the first Black leader of either party in Congress.
Jeffries and the rest of the new leaders favored to win will better reflect the party’s diversity in the House, where there are over 100 Democratic members of color, as well as in their voting coalition. When the vote is over, Democrats will most likely be looking at a team of Jeffries, Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark (age 59) and California Rep. Pete Aguilar (age 43). The trio’s average age is three decades younger than the current leaders.
Pelosi’s decision to step aside is also important for sending the message that politicians can keep their promises. She now fulfills a pledge she made in 2018 in exchange for winning the votes to keep the gavel back then.
This timing also allows her to exit leadership at a high point in her career. Rather than overplay her hand and weaken history’s view of her, she is cementing a legacy of achievements on health care, climate and much more that will last long after she is gone. Pelosi has generally been able to manage her factions, from moderate to progressive, and her relationship with Biden is close. She is leaving not because she has to, but because it’s time.
The contrast with the House GOP could not be starker. Republicans in recent history have walked away from a job made impossibly difficult by party divisions and obstreperous members. John Boehner and Paul Ryan each left after years of tussling with tea party right-wingers (in Boehner’s case) and Trump and his House allies (in Ryan’s case).
The next speaker, likely to be Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, will be dealing with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.; Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; and other hardliners close to Trump, not to mention Trump himself — already a candidate for 2024. McCarthy still wants the gavel, but the GOP is hard on speakers and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to place bets on how long he lasts in the job.
Pelosi is a lot older than Boehner (65 when he resigned), Ryan (who left at 48) and the 57-year-old McCarthy. She’s even older than Biden, who turns 80 on Sunday. The president, like Pelosi, is also at a high point in his career, and I have argued that he should take the win and let a new generation compete for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination. Pelosi is showing the way.
California braces for post-Pelosi future
“We are mindful that we’re going to have to be more proactive as a state in terms of our efforts in Washington, D.C.”
That was Gov. Gavin Newsom’s delicately worded assessment of how California might fare differently under Kevin McCarthy — the Bakersfield Republican positioned to take over as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives after his party won a slim majority in the midterm elections — than it did under Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the San Francisco Democrat who announced Thursday that she plans to step down from a leadership position next year even while remaining in Congress.
During a Thursday press conference in Napa Valley to highlight California’s firefighting investments and announce that peak fire season has ended in most parts of the state, Newsom said “no one has been more consequential in modern American history” as House speaker than Pelosi.
- Newsom: “Don’t take people like Nancy Pelosi for granted. … The amount of things Nancy Pelosi’s done behind the scenes during the Trump years to stop cuts, draconian impacts on the people of the state of California, you won’t have enough tape, even if it’s digital, for me to illuminate and highlight just those few years.”
- He added: “I don’t expect a lot of support coming from the Republican caucus, if past is prologue. We’re gonna have to be creative.”
McCarthy, meanwhile, speculated on Fox Business that Pelosi chose to make her announcement now because “she just doesn’t want to hand me the gavel.” Instead, the incoming Democratic House minority leader — whom some suspect will be New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries — will handle the formal transition of power.
Although Pelosi said she plans to continue serving in Congress — she was just reelected to another two-year term ending in 2024 — her decision to step down from a leadership role is likely to intensify a behind-the-scenes battle among ambitious San Francisco politicians to succeed her.
Also brewing in the background: a fight to replace Dianne Feinstein, another San Franciscan, in the U.S. Senate. Feinstein, who recently became the country’s longest-serving woman senator, has not yet indicated whether she plans to seek reelection after her current term ends in 2024, but officials are already angling for a seat that hasn’t been open since 1992 — especially amid reports of Feinstein’s alleged mental decline.
- Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of Los Angeles, for example, decided not to seek a House leadership post and is instead focusing on a potential Senate bid, according to Politico.
“Don’t ever count her out,” Newsom said Thursday of Feinstein. “I don’t care what the pundits are saying. … She still commands a room, commands our respect, and I don’t expect her to resign.”
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected as leader of the House Democrats
The House Democratic Caucus has elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., to lead their caucus.
As House minority leader, Jeffries will become the first Black person to lead a major political party in Congress. He is among a new slate of leaders elected Wednesday to lead House Democrats in the next session of Congress, including Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., as Jeffries’ No. 2, and Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., as the third-ranking leader.
Jeffries, 52, who ran unopposed, is 30 years younger than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi announced earlier this month she would remain in Congress, but not run for the leadership post she has held atop the Democratic caucus for nearly two decades after Republicans gained a razor-thin majority in the 2022 midterms.
Pelosi praised the leadership team following the caucus election Wednesday, saying the new leaders will “reinvigorate our Caucus with their new energy, ideas and perspective.”
At a press conference following the vote, Jeffries noted how his confirmation landed on the birthday of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress. As someone who represented some of the same neighborhoods that she did, Jeffries framed the significance of his election by reflecting on her legacy and what his party could learn from it.
“I stand on the shoulders of people like Shirley Chisolm and so many others as we work to advance the ball for everyday Americans,” he said. “That’s our story, that’s our legacy, that’s our values, that’s our commitment as we move forward: Get stuff done, make life better for everyday Americans.”
Clyburn calls the leadership change an ‘evolution’
Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who is 82 and has served in party leadership, said Tuesday night the shift taking place with the current slate of leaders stepping aside to make way for a new generation has been in the works for several years.
“I think that it was pretty clear to everybody that Pelosi, [Rep. Steny] Hoyer and myself would be making an exit from the leadership very soon, either under our own, or somebody carried us out,” Clyburn said.
Clyburn called the low-drama leadership change that House Democrats executed relatively quickly after a team that held power for roughly 15 years an “evolution.” Typically, coveted leadership posts rarely open up and contested races can get personal with camps working furiously to secure votes in a race decided via a secret ballot.
“I have studied history long enough to know that evolutions are much better than revolutions,” Clyburn said. “And I think that anybody watching their caucus, our caucus over the years, could see the evolving leadership.”
Speaking the night before the leadership elections, Jeffries told reporters that after Democrats won back the majority in 2018 he, Clark and Aguilar talked about joining the leadership table then and using the period to demonstrate they were up to the task to eventually move up the leadership ladder.
A new generation vows ‘bottom up’ leadership style
Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., told NPR “one thing I’ve learned in leadership is that you don’t get to choose your moment. The moment presents itself, and it’s up to you to decide how and when you’re going to lead.” Crow said Jeffries has a “bottom up style of leadership,” adding, “one of his greatest strengths is recognizing the tremendous talent around him.”
Pelosi held a very narrow majority during this session of Congress, and the divisions between progressives and centrists often spilled into the open and stalled action on top priorities. Those on the left often wanted bolder policy proposals and more generous federal spending, while centrists argued for positions they maintained were more in step with voters in purple districts they represented and helped the party regain the majority in 2018.
Jeffries told reporters there’s “nothing more unifying then being in the majority” and said he and his colleagues are squarely focused on taking back the gavel in 2024.
He acknowledged the caucus is “a big family, and an enthusiastic family and sometimes a noisy family.” In a veiled reference to the House GOP conference and its allegiance to former President Donald Trump, Jeffries added “I’d much rather be a coalition than a cult.”
One younger House Democrat, Rep. Nanette Barragán, D-Calif., who was elected in 2016, told NPR she was excited about the major shift in who will lead her party in the House. Barragán pointed out that she and Jeffries come from similar backgrounds, with working-class parents.
“He understands what it’s like to be a person of color, the discrimination that we face — as he likes to say it’s about standing up for the left behind and the folks who aren’t really having that say at the table.” She said his style is to listen to the various factions inside the caucus and said he’s traveled extensively around the country to visit with lawmakers in their districts.
Jeffries served as impeachment manager and legislator
Pelosi tapped Jeffries to serve as an impeachment manager for the Senate trial in January of 2020 — a high profile position for those who would prosecute their case on national television. Crow was on the team and recounted a tense moment during the Senate trial when a protester burst into the chamber during Jeffries’ presentation and it was unclear if he had a weapon or would threaten the lawmakers inside. As the Capitol Police worked to remove the person Crow looked up at Jeffries, who “stopped, he collected himself, he quoted a scripture verse about how the Lord will protect his flock and stand by you. And then he picked right up where he left off and finished presenting his case. It just is one illustration of how he handles things and stays calm under pressure.”
Jeffries also showcased his Brooklyn roots during the trial when responding to Trump’s lawyer who asked the House impeachment managers why they were even there pushing their case. He quoted Biggie Smalls, the rapper from his neighborhood known as “the Notorious B.I.G.,” as he finished his closing statement about the president’s abuse of power saying, “and if you don’t know, now you know.”
Crow said that episode shows that Jeffries “knows where he’s going, but he also knows where he’s from. And I think that’s important as a person and as important as a leader to never forget your background, never forget who you are.”
In working with House GOP leaders, Jeffries will keep an ‘open mind’
Jeffries said he has an “open mind” in terms of his relationship with the top House Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who was nominated to serve as the speaker. McCarthy is still working to secure the votes he needs to be elected by the full House. Jeffries said he has more experience with the incoming majority leader, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and said he would look for areas of common ground. But he stressed that McCarthy has a lot of members Jeffries considers “extreme” and he is prepared to oppose GOP efforts to push far-right policies.
cnn.com, “Nancy Pelosi announces she won’t run for leadership post, marking the end of an era.” By Alex Rogers, Annie Grayer and Manu Raju; nbcnews.com, “Nancy Pelosi made the right call: It’s past time for a leadership shift. Younger Democrats have been waiting forever to rise in the ranks.” By Jill Lawrence; bbc.com, “Nancy Pelosi: How she rose to the top – and stayed there.” ; calmatters.org, “California braces for post-Pelosi future.”; npr.org, “Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected as leader of the House Democrats.” By Deirdre Walsh;
Nancy Pelosi: How she rose to the top – and stayed there
She has been at the top of US politics for decades and is one of the leading female voices in a male-dominated Congress.
But Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will no longer lead the Democrats in the House of Representatives, saying the time had come “for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus”.
She will remain in the House as a member, representing California’s 12th district.
Mrs Pelosi is the first woman in US history to serve as speaker of the House and has played a critical role in advancing – or thwarting – the agendas of multiple presidents.
Her legislative acumen, her ability to keep a restless party united when it matters, and her instinct for political theatre have made her a force on Capitol Hill, as well as a lightning rod for criticism from her detractors.
Raised in a political family
Mrs Pelosi grew up in a political family, the youngest of seven children in the East Coast city of Baltimore, Maryland, where her father was once mayor.
She went to college in nearby Washington DC, where she met and eventually married financier Paul Pelosi.
They first moved to Manhattan, and then San Francisco, where Mrs Pelosi started as a housewife.
She had five children – four daughters and a son – in the space of six years.
In 1976, she became involved in politics, using her old family connections to help California Governor Jerry Brown win the Maryland primary as he ran for president.
She then rose through the ranks of the state’s Democratic Party, eventually becoming its chair and then winning a seat in Congress in 1987.
In 2001, she ran for House minority whip – her party’s vote-counter and second-in-command in the House of Representatives – and won a narrow victory.
The next year she moved up to minority leader, the title held by the person leading the opposition in the House.
Reaching the top
Mrs Pelosi was one of the highest-profile, most outspoken opponents of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
This stand was vindicated and paid dividends in 2006 when the Democrats took control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
She was elected by her party to be speaker of the House, becoming the first woman in that role in US history.
Speaker of the House is the one congressional job detailed in the US Constitution. After the vice-president, it is next in line.
Its massive office, in the Capitol rotunda, reflects the prestige of the job, with its own balcony looking out toward the Washington Monument.
The majority party in the House has virtually unfettered control over the legislative process. The speaker and her deputies and committee chairs determine what bills are considered and voted on. They set the agenda and decide the rules governing debate.
Mrs Pelosi was in the role for four years, until Democrats lost control of the lower chamber of Congress.
Despite the setback, Mrs Pelosi defeated several challenges within her own ranks, to take the gavel once more at the helm of a resurgent party in 2018.
Pelosi’s biggest moment
Mrs Pelosi faced very different circumstances when she returned to the speaker’s chair in 2018.
By then she was a lightning rod for Republican anger – in their eyes, representing the coastal elites pushing a big-spending, radical platform.
During the 2018 midterms campaign, for example, Republican incumbent Virginia Congressman David Brat mentioned Nancy Pelosi and her “liberal agenda” 21 times in one debate.
The move backfired for him – and his party – as Democrats swept to a historic win in the House.
But this time she had President Donald Trump as well as the wily Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as obstacles. So any bills her party got through the House didn’t go any further.
In viral terms, her big moment was her sarcastic #PelosiClap during Mr Trump’s State of the Union speech a month after she took office.
Nancy Pelosi ripped up a copy of the president’s speech at the end of his address
Most controversially, 12 months later she ripped up Mr Trump’s speech in front of the TV cameras. Accused of disrespect, she later defended the move, calling his words a “manifesto of mistruths”.
Taking on Trump, and beyond
Mrs Pelosi was initially reluctant to lead only the third ever impeachment of a US president.
But as more emerged in 2019 of Mr Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, she eventually said it was an abuse of power that could not be ignored.
He was accused of pressing Ukraine to dig up damaging information on Joe Biden, and using military aid as leverage – but was acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate.
In her fourth term as speaker, after Mr Biden took office, she has been able to shepherd much of the president’s legislative agenda through her chamber despite the razor-thin margins.
In less than two years, Democrats in the House passed a Covid relief bill, a bipartisan infrastructure spending package, a multi-trillion-dollar environment and social spending programme, and legislation protecting gay marriage.
That she was able to pull this off, when losing more than a vote or two would have meant failure, is testament to her ability to keep her party’s liberal and centrist members in the fold.
More recently, she enraged China by becoming the most senior US lawmaker to visit Taiwan in 25 years. China views the island as its own, and punished the US with military drills and the curtailing of diplomatic relations in the aftermath of her trip.
The trip may have been means to burnish her political legacy, in the twilight of her long political career, says the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher.
It was a historic trip to end her tenure – setting down a marker for democracy over autocracy, as she has framed it – and could have been her way of exiting the stage with a flourish.
“I never would have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House speaker,” Mrs Pelosi said in the House chamber as she announced she was standing down.
“The hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus.”