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Politics & Policy

Nancy Pelosi gives up leadership role, but she isn’t going anywhere

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi attends a press conference at the COP27 convention complex in Egypt's Red Sea resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, on November 11, 2022. | Jospeh Eid?AFP via Getty Images

Nancy Pelosi isn't done yet.

In a wide-ranging speech detailing her journey and that of the nation, the two-time House speaker announced in a Thursday floor speech that she is giving up her leadership role but intends to remain in Congress after Republicans gained control of the lower chamber in last week's midterm elections.

"Standing here today, I am endlessly grateful for all of life's blessings," Pelosi said.

First elected in 1987, Pelosi rose through the ranks to become the most powerful San Francisco politician in history, sitting second in line to the presidency and controlling a sprawling Democratic caucus over four terms as House Speaker. 

"It's been with great pride in my 35 years in the House that I have seen this body grow more reflective of our great nation," Pelosi said. "When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90—and we want more."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) arrives to the U.S. Capitol Building on Nov. 17, 2022, in Washington, D.C. She announced she plans to remain in Congress. | Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Pelosi thanked many different people and groups in her speech, including San Francisco voters.

"In this continued work, I will strive to honor the call of the patron saint of our city, Saint Francis. Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace," Pelosi said. "In this House, we begin each day with a prayer and a pledge to the flag, and every day I am in awe of the majestic miracle of American democracy."

Pelosi’s organizing and fundraising prowess has helped steer transformative bills through Congress like the Affordable Care Act and, more recently, the Inflation Reduction Act. Term after term, San Franciscans rewarded her with overwhelming reelection margins.

“She’s a lion of the Congress, and has been around for a long time,” Christian Grose, a University of Southern California political science professor, told The Standard. “[Her departure] is going to create a bit of a vacuum in leadership.” 

Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who represents California’s 23rd Congressional District, is widely expected to assume the speakership in January. The minority leader since 2019, McCarthy represents Bakersfield and is close with former President Donald Trump, who announced on Tuesday he intends to run for president again in 2024.

A day before announcing her decision, Pelosi championed her and the Democrats' work on health care, climate action, infrastructure, gun violence and helping veterans.

In Thursday's speech, Pelosi also noted the attack on her husband, who was nearly beaten to death with a hammer by a man who broke into the couple's San Francisco home a little more than a week before the election.

She said she and her family "are all grateful for all the prayers and well-wishes as he continues in his recovery."

The decision to remain in Congress delays Pelosi’s retirement, which would have set off a special election next year. It remains to be seen if that happens.

Those interested in succeeding her will simply have to bide their time, but the campaign for 2024 begins in earnest.

Meanwhile, Democrats will have a new minority leader—reports suggest a deal has been struck with Hakeem Jeffries of New York—to fend off legislative advances from the Republican Party.

GOP leaders have repeatedly suggested the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump, and many state election results shouldn't be trusted. These talking points fueled the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, which Pelosi alluded to in her opening remarks Thursday.

"Indeed, American democracy is majestic, but it is fragile," she said. "Democracy must be forever defended from forces who wish it harm."

Josh Koehn can be reached at