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Following a legendary run, Nancy Pelosi agrees to pass the torch

Not to put too fine a point on this, but lawmakers and leaders with records like Nancy Pelosi’s tend to have buildings named after them.


After the midterm elections in 2018, in which House Democrats reclaimed their majority, there was some debate among the party’s members about who should lead the chamber. Then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, eight years removed from her earlier stint as speaker, made a deal with her members: If they stuck with her, she’d serve no more than two additional terms before standing down.

Most rank-and-file Democrats agreed, and Pelosi reclaimed the gavel.

Two years ago tomorrow, the California congresswoman reaffirmed her pledge, declaring her intention to serve just one more term as the party’s top lawmaker.

And yet, plenty of observers, on Capitol Hill and off, wondered whether Pelosi might change her mind. After a Congress in which she racked up a series of additional victories, proving herself anew as one of the most skilled and accomplished legislators in House history, it was only natural to think Pelosi might yet reconsider her pledge, go back to her members, and ask for more time as their leader.

That, however, was not the course the Californian chose. Today, Pelosi instead agreed to pass the torch. NBC News reported:

Nancy Pelosi, the first female speaker of the House, who helped shape many of the most consequential laws of the early 21st century, said Thursday that she will step down after two decades as the Democratic Party’s leader in the chamber. “With great confidence in our caucus I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Pelosi said in a speech on the House floor.

The Democratic lawmaker is not resigning. Pelosi, who was easily re-elected last week, explained in her remarks that she will remain in Congress as a Democratic member representing San Francisco.

For now, there’s some uncertainty as to who will succeed Pelosi as the House Democratic leader, and in her prepared remarks, she expressed no preferences. The conventional wisdom is that the party is likely to turn to incumbent Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York, but that debate will wait for another day.

In Democratic politics, today will be about the most accomplished House speaker in generations.

It was Pelosi who helped pass the Recovery Act that ended the Great Recession. It was Pelosi who ensured the Affordable Care Act became law. It was Pelosi whose record includes historic legislative victories on civil rights, Wall Street reforms, student loans, Covid relief, climate change, infrastructure and prescription medications.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but lawmakers and leaders with records like Pelosi’s tend to have buildings named after them.

President Joe Biden issued a written statement this afternoon, saying, “History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history.” There is no reason to consider that hyperbolic in the slightest.

Postscript: During her floor remarks today, Pelosi said she’s “enjoyed working with three presidents” as speaker, before referencing accomplishments from the Bush, Obama and Biden eras.

Left unsaid was the fact that Pelosi served as speaker under four presidents, not three.