Pelosi announces end of her tenure as House speaker

  • by Chris Kane, Washington Blade
  • Thursday November 17, 2022
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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced November 17 that she would not seek a leadership position in the next Congress. Photo: Michael Key/Washington Blade
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced November 17 that she would not seek a leadership position in the next Congress. Photo: Michael Key/Washington Blade

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, on Thursday, announced her decision to pass the leadership torch to a younger generation of Democratic members in the lower chamber, stepping down after years of service in that role. She will remain in Congress, where the San Francisco Democrat was just easily reelected to another two-year term.

"I will continue to speak from the people of San Francisco as a member of the House," she said during remarks November 17, but "I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next caucus."

Republicans secured a narrower-than-expected seven-seat majority in the 2022 midterm elections, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) poised to become the next House speaker when the new Congress is seated in January.

Pelosi, whose decision to step down comes weeks after her husband, Paul Pelosi, was brutally attacked in the couple's San Francisco home, reached an agreement with fellow Democratic members in 2018 that she would resign from her position in leadership by the end of this year.

While she did not address the question of who might succeed her as Democratic leader of the House, the website Puck reported on Thursday that Pelosi plans to throw her support behind Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York).

"Never did I think I would go from homemaker to House speaker," Pelosi said from the floor of the House. Reflecting on her 35 years of service in the chamber, the congresswoman celebrated the work that she and the Democratic caucus have accomplished.

This included passage of transformative legislation under the administrations of three presidents, she said: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden. Pelosi, who became the first woman speaker of the House in 2007, also held that role under former President Donald Trump's tenure.

"When I think of Nancy Pelosi, I think of dignity," opens a statement from President Joe Biden on the speaker's announcement.

"History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history," he stated. "There are countless examples of how she embodies the obligation of elected officials to uphold their oath to God and country to ensure our democracy delivers and remains a beacon to the world. In everything she does, she reflects a dignity in her actions and a dignity she sees in the lives of the people of this nation."

Democratic Senator Alex Padilla of California also released a statement, which read in part: "Speaker Pelosi's perseverance and commitment to unity has served as a source of strength both at home and abroad in the face of extremist attempts to harm our democracy, our nation's Capitol, and even her own family."

Congressmember Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), a longtime ally of Pelosi's on HIV/AIDS and other issues, also issued a statement.

"I consider Speaker Pelosi a dear friend, a congressional neighbor, and a fierce leader," Lee stated. "I congratulate her on an incredible career in House leadership and look forward to continuing to serve the Bay Area alongside her in Congress. I wish her beloved husband Paul a speedy and full recovery, and wish Speaker Pelosi and her family the best of luck in this next chapter. Her legacy will live on forever."

The LGBTQ Victory Institute hailed Pelosi's record on matters of consequence to the community. Pelosi, the group wrote, "is the most pro-LGBTQ speaker in American history — constantly championing our rights and causes — and the relief and pride that came with having a fierce defender in that position cannot be understated."

Equality California, the statewide LGBTQ rights organization, also praised Pelosi.

"From her first floor speech in 1987 to today's, Speaker Pelosi has been an indefatigable champion for LGBTQ+ civil rights, reproductive freedom and the health and well-being of all Americans," EQCA Executive Director Tony Hoang stated. "She is, without question, the most effective Speaker in history, and we are eternally grateful for her service."

Pelosi's first floor statement in 1987 dealt with the AIDS crisis and how she had come to Congress to fight the disease that was ravaging San Francisco and other cities.

Gay state Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), widely mentioned as someone who will run for Pelosi's seat once she steps down from Congress, also praised her.

"As always, Nancy Pelosi moves with grace and strength," he stated. "She's playing an essential role saving our democracy. She's devoted her life to the people of San Francisco. She's one of the great leaders in American history. Thank you, Madame Speaker, for your continued service."

Also on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), a key Pelosi lieutenant, announced in a letter to his Democratic colleagues that he would not seek another term in leadership.

Having served in leadership positions for 36 of his 42 years in the House, Hoyer wrote, "I have been honored to serve alongside Nancy Pelosi, whose tenure as Speaker was both historic and extraordinarily productive."

Hoyer announced his endorsement of Jeffries to replace him as the House's Democratic Leader.

The Bay Area Reporter contributed reporting.

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