House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she will not seek re-election as leader of the House Democratic Conference after nearly 20 years at the helm, after her party narrowly lost the majority in the chamber in the midterm elections.
The 82-year-old Californian made the announcement Thursday on the House floor. Speculation had grown in recent days about Pelosi’s future after her husband, Paul, was violently attacked at their San Francisco home and Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.
Pelosi has led House Democrats since 2003, including two four-year stints as speaker.
Although Pelosi is poised to continue serving in the House for at least the short term, the California lawmaker’s decision has widespread repercussions for her conference. Current members of the Democratic leadership, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, have been frozen out of moving higher because of Pelosi’s hold on the speaker’s gavel.
Pelosi’s most likely successor appears to be House Democratic Conference Chairman Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Jeffries, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, is an astute fundraiser and already has the backing of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Other potential contenders, include Hoyer and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif. Schiff has been laying the groundwork for a bid for months, but is also eyeing a Senate run in his native California if Democrat Dianne Feinstein retires as expected in 2024.
In the 20-year period since Pelosi has served in leadership, several Democratic rising stars and would-be successors have lost re-election or left Congress to pursue other possibilities.
President Biden’s Health Secretary Xavier Beccerra, for instance, was pegged as a potential Pelosi successor before leaving Congress in 2017 to become California’s attorney general. Others, like New York Rep. Joe Crowley, were defeated in primary or general election campaigns.
Pelosi’s two stints as speaker, from 2007 to 2011 and 2019 to present, have seen Democrats accomplish big goals, but also face electoral repercussions.
In 2007, Democrats opposed President George W. Bush’s efforts to increase the troop presence in Iraq as the war showed no sign of ending. Although the troop surge worked, Pelosi and Democrats were able to ride anti-war sentiment and President Barack Obama’s coattails to a bigger House majority in the 2008 elections.
During the first two years of Obama’s presidency, Pelosi was instrumental in passing the Affordable Care Act and an economic stimulus bill.
While Pelosi’s actions were heralded by Democrats, voters gave the party a massive rout in the 2010 elections. Democrats lost 63 seats, handing the House to Republicans until 2018.
That cycle, Pelosi led Democrats back to power by a narrow margin. In her second stint as speaker, Pelosi fought against President Donald Trump’s efforts to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Democratic opposition to Trump’s political agenda culminated in two impeachment efforts. The first, over Trump’s alleged calls for Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s business dealings in the country, ended with an acquittal in the Senate.
The second impeachment effort, over Trump allegedly provoking a mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, ended the same way.