Nancy Pelosi to step down as Democratic leader but remain in Congress

© Saul Loeb, AFP

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold the top role in the US lower house, said on Thursday that she will step down from party leadership to make way for "a new generation" but will remain in Congress.

Republicans will take control of the chamber in January after securing a narrow majority on Wednesday. Democrats remain in control of the Senate.

"For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect," said Pelosi, 82, who first became speaker in 2007 and later presided over both impeachments of Donald Trump.

"I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress," the California Democrat told lawmakers in a speech on the House floor.

Pelosi's departure as party leader will mark the end of an era in Washington.

Elected to Congress in 1987, she first became speaker in 2007. Known for keeping a tight grip on party ranks, she presided over both impeachments of Donald Trump during her second stint in the role.

Currently second in the line of succession to President Joe Biden after the vice president, Pelosi said last week that her decision on the future would be influenced by the brutal attack on her elderly husband in the run-up to the November 8 midterms.

Paul Pelosi, who is also 82, was left hospitalised with serious injuries after an intruder – possibly looking for the speaker – broke into their San Francisco home and attacked him with a hammer.

Life after the midterms

Pelosi said she would continue to represent her San Francisco district in the next Congress and praised Democrats' better-than-expected performance in the midterm contest.

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