Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that she wouldn't try to lead the Democratic House minority in the new Congress but would retain her seat as a backbench member representing San Francisco.
"With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress," said Pelosi during remarks on the House floor this afternoon. "For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect."
Republicans' winning of a narrow majority in this year's midterms marks the second time Pelosi has presided over the loss of Democratic control of the House of Representatives. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D–N.Y.) is widely expected to take over leadership of the incoming Democratic minority.
Pelosi became the first female House speaker in 2007, after midterm elections in 2006 saw Democrats win healthy majorities on the back of voter dissatisfaction with the Iraq War and the scandal-plagued administration of George W. Bush.
Pelosi's first speakership didn't force an end to the Iraq War but did shepherd through massive expansions of the federal government, including the Great Recession–era stimulus bill and bank bailouts, Dodd-Frank financial regulations, and Obamacare.
It was during the debate over Obamacare that Pelosi made her now-famous remark that Congress had to pass the bill "so that you can find out what's in it." The perceived high-handedness and lack of transparency over the passage of Obamacare helped fuel the 2010 Tea Party wave that ended Democrats' control of the House and with it, Pelosi's first term as speaker.
She managed to hang on as Democratic leader following that loss. The blue wave of the 2018 midterms returned Pelosi to the speakership. That second term saw her preside over two unsuccessful impeachment efforts against former President Donald Trump and trillions in COVID spending.
Pelosi skipped any direct mention of Trump in her emotional remarks today, although she did offer some coded attacks on his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
"American democracy is majestic but it is fragile…. Democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm," she said, adding that during last week's midterms "people stood in the breach and repelled the assault on democracy."
Pelosi also took time to tout her successful work with Presidents Bush, Obama, and Biden, passing bills on everything from clean energy and climate change to health care and infrastructure.
Hers is a legacy of big government liberalism, and it's one Pelosi is obviously proud of.
Rent Free is a weekly newsletter from Christian Britschgi on urbanism and the fight for less regulation, more housing, more property rights, and more freedom in America's cities.