Mon. Dec 5th, 2022

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold the position, announced Thursday that she will step down as the House’s Democratic leader as the party prepares to pass the torch to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

The 82-year-old political veteran, who has served as speaker twice, confirmed that this will not be her exit from politics, as she intends to remain in Congress.

A California native, Pelosi will continue to represent San Francisco, as she has for more than three decades.

Pelosi’s announcement came a day after Republicans secured a slim majority in the House following last week’s midterm elections, where an expected conservative “red wave” failed to materialize and left the Senate in Democratic control.

In a statement, Democratic President Joe Biden called Pelosi “the most consistent speaker of the House in our history.”

Pelosi has played a central role in pushing Biden’s legislative agenda through Congress, as she previously did for Obama. She helped pass Obama’s signature 2010 health care law, as well as a major expansion of spending on infrastructure and climate change under Biden.

She was also a regular target of criticism from American conservatives, and was under pressure from younger Democratic lawmakers to step down.

As the outgoing speaker gave her speech, her party members applauded enthusiastically.

Calling the House chamber “hallowed ground,” Pelosi recalled her first visit to the Capitol as a child when her father was sworn in as a member of the House.

She also talked about her cooperation with three American presidents – Republican George W. Bush and Democrats Barack Obama and Biden – but did not mention Republican President Donald Trump, who was twice impeached by the House of Representatives under her leadership.

However, she alluded to the attacks by Trump supporters on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.

“American democracy is magnificent, but it is fragile. Many of us here have witnessed our fragility firsthand, tragically in this chamber. And so democracy must forever be defended against the forces that wish it harm,” Pelosi said.

The outgoing president also noted the increase in women and minority lawmakers since she joined the House of Representatives in 1987.

Pelosi’s likely successor, New Yorker Hakeem Jeffries, would be the first black leader in Congress. He declined to say whether he would pursue the role.