Pelosi announced in a spirited speech on the House floor that she will step aside after leading Democrats for nearly 20 years and in the aftermath of the brutal attack on her husband, Paul, last month in their San Francisco home.
“Now we must move boldly into the future,” Pelosi said. “The hour has come for a new generation.”
The California Democrat, who rose to become the nation’s first woman to wield the speaker’s gavel, said she would remain in Congress as the representative from San Francisco, a position she has held for 35 years, when the new Congress convenes in January.
President Joe Biden said: “History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history…
“She embodies the obligation of elected officials to uphold their oath to God and country to ensure our democracy delivers and remains a beacon to the world.”
The first women to become speaker, and the only person in decades to be twice elected to the role, she has led Democrats through consequential moments, including passage of the Affordable Care Act with President Barack Obama and the impeachments of President Donald Trump.
First elected in 1987, Pelosi has been a pivotal figure in American politics, long ridiculed by Republicans as a San Francisco liberal while steadily rising as a skilled legislator and fundraising powerhouse. Her own Democratic colleagues have intermittently appreciated but also feared her powerful brand of leadership.
Pelosi first became speaker in 2007, saying she had cracked the “marble ceiling,” after Democrats swept to power in the 2006 midterm elections in a backlash to then-President George W. Bush and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When she was poised in 2018 to return as speaker, in the Trump era, she vowed “to show the power of the gavel.”
Pelosi has repeatedly withstood leadership challenges over the years and had suggested in 2018 she would serve four more years as leader. But she had not discussed those plans more recently.