With Republicans poised to take over the House in January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she would step down from her position as the top Democrat in the chamber, following through with the four-year term limit she set for herself the last time she was elected to the post.
“I will not seek re-election to the Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” Pelosi announced in a speech from the House floor, adding that she would continue to represent her constituents from San Fransisco.
“For me the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect, and I’m grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility.”
All eyes had shifted to Pelosi, the top Democrat in the House, after the chamber was called in favor of Republicans, who secured the 218 seats needed for a majority late Wednesday night. There are still seven seats in play.
Her decision to bow out is likely to lead to a massive shakeup for the Democratic caucus. A young generation of lawmakers have patiently been waiting in the wings to step into Pelosi’s shoes, and more leaderships positions could open up if Pelosi’s second- and third-in-command, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip James Clyburn, follow Pelosi out the door.
Democratic strategist and CEO of Fireside Campaign Brad Bauman told Newsweek that whoever succeeds Pelosi “will have huge shoes to fill.”
“They are stepping into a role that has been held by the most effective party leader and House Speaker in the modern era…maybe ever,” Bauman said.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York has been long been thought of as the likeliest to replace Pelosi. Earlier this month, it was reported that the fifth-ranking House Democrat may have already clinched the job after privately meeting with Clyburn over his concern that votes could be split between him and Representative Adam Schiff, who is also reportedly vying for the position.
Members of his caucus have already signaled they are prepared to back Jeffries if he runs. Representative Joyce Beatty, who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) told CNN on Thursday that she was “very comfortable” saying every CBC member would vote for Jeffries.
Bauman described Jeffries as a “natural choice” to succeed Pelosi, contending that the 52-year-old congressman has shown to have the same grit and determination that could successfully hold the Democratic caucus together.
Pelosi has represented California’s 12 Congressional District for 35 years and has been in Democratic leadership for more than half of her time in Congress. She was also the first woman elected to the Speakership and the first woman to lead a party in a chamber of Congress.
The speakership will now be handed over to House Republicans, who appeared to support the election of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in a closed-door vote earlier this week. Holding the majority, the GOP will also dictate the legislative agenda for the second half of President Joe Biden‘s presidency.
It is not only the results of the midterm elections that were a factor in Pelosi’s seismic decision. The recent break-in of her San Fransisco home and violent assault on her husband, Paul, have also played a role in how the House Speaker views her future in Congress.
Speaking to CNN’s Anderson Cooper last week, she said her decision on staying or leaving Democratic leadership “will be affected about what happened the last week or two.” Asked if she was referring to the attack, Pelosi answered, “yes.”
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