Immediately after Donald Trump was impeached on the first of two articles last night, some House Democrats began to applaud. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), with a stern look and a quick wave of her hand, immediately silenced them: she didn't want to send a signal that her party saw the developments as a celebratory occasion.
It served as a striking reminder: Pelosi's in charge.
Politico ran an article this week, ahead of last night's floor votes, about the position the Speaker finds herself in.
]A]t age 79 and in her 17th term in the House, Pelosi has never been better, according to interviews with nearly two dozen Democrats. Her command of legislation, her control over her caucus, her ability to confront a historically hostile president and GOP-run Senate on equal terms are unparalleled. She's the one person in Washington who can beat Trump at his own game, though she never wanted to play it.
The article quoted Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who ran against Pelosi in 2016 to serve as the top House Democrat, but who now lauds her leadership. "Nancy Pelosi is the absolute best politician that the Democratic Party has seen since Lyndon Johnson, in my opinion," the Ohio Democrat said.
When Politico asked if he could have done what Pelosi did if he were Democratic leader, Ryan added, "Probably not.... She's literally in a class by herself."
As the president's scandal intensified, his impeachment started to appear inevitable, but as congressional challenges go, this was not an easy lift. Much of the House Democratic conference was skeptical about impeachment. A total of 31 Dems represent districts Trump carried, and if half of them balked at the impeachment effort, the final outcome would've been very much in doubt.
The political implications of the decision were, and are, uncertain, and it was easy to imagine Democrats losing their nerve as the final vote neared.
And yet, that did not happen. With a small handful of exceptions, the party remained unified, which can be attributed directly to Pelosi's steady hand.
That said, the impeachment process is not complete -- a Senate trial looms -- and the House Speaker has some additional important decisions to make.