House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced Thursday that she will not seek reelection as the Democratic leader in the chamber after Republicans secured a majority in last week’s midterm elections.
Pelosi, 82, has led House Democrats for nearly two decades, initially taking the helm as minority leader in 2003 and developing a reputation for enforcing strict party unity in key votes.
“I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a packed chamber from the House floor. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus.”
Pelosi’s decision launches a scramble among Democrats to replace her — with Brooklyn and Queens Rep. Hakeem Jeffries the heavy favorite to become the next party leader with support from the Congressional Black Caucus, which includes about a quarter of House Democrats.
House Democrats are expected to select their next leader on Nov. 30.
The House’s No. 2 Democrat, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, announced moments after Pelosi’s statement that he, too, would step aside from leadership in the new Congress.
Pelosi, the first woman to wield the gavel, reflected in a 15-minute speech on her trajectory from “homemaker to House speaker” and even worked in digs at former President Donald Trump.
“I have enjoyed working with three presidents — achieving historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush, as well as health care reform with President Barack Obama and forging the future from infrastructure to healthcare to climate action with President Joe Biden,” Pelosi said.
She did not directly mention the 45th president — with whom House Democrats worked to approve a landmark criminal justice reform bill and massive COVID-19 relief packages.
Pelosi notably tore up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union speech in 2020 and later mocked him as “morbidly obese.” Trump returned fire for the insult by saying Pelosi was a “sick woman” with “mental problems.”
Trump launched a 2024 presidential campaign Tuesday while telling cheering supporters that Pelosi had been “fired” by voters.
The Democratic leader worked in another implicit rebuke of Trump while celebrating the fact that Republicans made fewer gains than expected in the midterm elections, in which Democrats held the Senate with many Trump-backed candidates losing.
“With these elections the people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on democracy,” she said. “They resoundingly rejected violence and insurrection, and in doing so, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
The soon-to-be former speaker previously said her future plans would be affected by the health of her husband Paul, also 82, who was attacked by a hammer-wielding intruder at the couple’s San Francisco home last month and is recovering from a fractured skull.
Pelosi was born into a Maryland political family — her father Thomas D’Alesandro Jr. was Baltimore’s mayor and a House member himself. She served as House speaker twice — from 2007 to 2011 and again from 2019.
“I never never intended to run for public office,” she said. “Mommy and daddy taught us through their example that public service is a noble calling and that we all have a responsibility to help others. In our family, my brother Tommy then became mayor of Baltimore also.”
Pelosi cited the Bible while explaining her decision to step down from House leadership after previously resisting calls to move aside to allow for a new generation.