In relatively brief remarks, but with some fanfare, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday to announce her retirement from leadership — but not from the House.
"Never would I have thought I would go from homemaker to House Speaker," Pelosi said in her speech, reflecting on her 35 years in the chamber.
In addition to taking credit for major legislative wins "under three presidents," including environmental reforms under George W. Bush, affordable healthcare under Barack Obama, and infrastructure and climate bills under Joe Biden, Pelosi reflected on the changing, and increasingly diverse demographics of the House chamber itself.
"It's been with great pride in my 35 years in the house to see this body grow more reflective of our beautiful nation," Pelosi said. "When I came to the House in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women, and now there are over 90. And we want more."
"The new members of our Democratic caucus will be about 75% women, people of color, and LGBT," Pelosi added.
She said that while she would not seek reelection to leadership or the role of House Minority Leader, now that Republicans have secured their slim majority in the next Congress, she said "there is no greater honor than speaking on behalf of the people of San Francisco" in the House.
Pelosi said that it was time to step aside for another generation of leadership — signaling a possible ascension for 52-year-old Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who could become the first Black lawmaker ever to lead one of the two major parties in Congress.
As the New York Times reports, immediately after Pelosi's midday speach, Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland — the No. 2-ranked Democrat in the chamber who is 83 years old — issued a letter to colleagues announcing he would not seek the leadership role, and offered an endorsement for Jeffries.
Pelosi offered thanks to colleagues and her staff — who were present in the gallery and who received a standing ovation from the Democratic side of the House — and she was visibly choked up as she thanked her husband, who was the victim of a brutal, politically motivated assault at their SF home three weeks ago.
"For my dear husband Paul, who has been my pillar of strength... We are grateful for the prayers and well-wishes from all of you as he continues his recovery," she said.
Pelosi also invoked the patron saint of San Francisco, St. Francis of Assisi, quoting from his prayer, "Lord make me an instrument of thy peace."
Pelosi was born into a political family — both her father, Thomas D'Alessandro Jr. and her brother Thomas D'Alessandro III were mayors of Baltimore, and her father was also a Congressman. Her trajectory from San Francisco housewife to the House began with her election to the Democratic National Committee in 1976, becoming party chair for Northern California the next year, and head of the California Democratic Party four years after that. She first took office in the House in the middle of a term, in June 1987, winning a special election to assume the seat of Sala Burton — the wife of her longtime friend Phillip Burton, who took her husband's seat when he died in 1983. Sala Burton died in February 1987, shortly after being reelected to Congress, and Pelosi then landed in the House seat for California's 12th District, which she has held in 17 consecutive elections.
When Democrats took control of the House in the middle of George W. Bush's second term, Pelosi became the first female Speaker of the House, taking the gavel in 2007 and serving until 2011. She would then serve as Minority Leader for eight years, before taking up the speakership again in 2019.
"American democracy is majestic but it is fragile," Pelosi said in her remarks today, also celebrating some of the defeats of Stop-the-Steal candidates last week. "Many of us here have witnessed our fragility firsthand, tragically in this chamber. And so democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm... We the people — one country, one destiny."
"I look forward to the unfolding story of our great nation," Pelosi said in concluding remarks.
After multiple standing ovations, she was surrounded by colleagues as she stepped down from the podium.
The full speech is below.
Join me as I make a major announcement on the Floor of the House of Representatives. https://t.co/Hi7zFqidbV— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) November 17, 2022
Top image: U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) delivers remarks from the House Chambers of the U.S. Capitol Building on November 17, 2022 in Washington, DC. Pelosi spoke on the future of her leadership plans in the House of Representatives and said she will not seek a leadership role in the upcoming Congress. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)