US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to hold that influential post, said she will step down as the Democratic leader in the chamber a day after Republicans secured a narrow majority following the midterm elections.
Pelosi, an 82-year-old liberal from California who has served two stints as Speaker, said she will remain in Congress, representing San Francisco in the House as she has done for 35 years.
Pelosi received cheers from her fellow Democrats as she took her place in the House chamber to make the announcement and throughout her remarks.
“American democracy is majestic but it is fragile. Many of us here have witnessed our fragility firsthand, tragically in this chamber. And so democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm,” Pelosi said, alluding to the attack on the Capitol last year by former President Donald Trump’s supporters.
Pelosi also noted the increase in the number of women serving in the House since she first joined it. She thanked her family and staff.
Pelosi, who has held her seat since winning a 1987 special election, has been under pressure during the past few years from younger House Democrats to yield power. She was the highest-ranking and most powerful elected woman in U.S. history until Kamala Harris became vice president in January 2021. The House Speaker is second in the line of succession to the presidency.
Pelosi in recent days had said the October 28 assault on her husband Paul by a politically motivated hammer-wielding intruder in their San Francisco home, as well as other factors would impact her decision on whether to keep her leadership role.
Republicans on Wednesday were projected to win control of the House following last week’s congressional elections, giving them a narrow majority in the chamber that will enable them to impede Democratic President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. Democrats retained control of the Senate.
House Democrats are set to vote on their leaders on November 30.
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York may seek to take her place as the top Democrat in the House. Jeffries would be the first Black lawmaker to lead one of the major parties’ caucuses in Congress.