With the Republicans guaranteed to retake control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the future of current Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the most powerful Democrat in Congress for a generation, will be known as early as today
Speculation had already mounted that Pelosi, 82, might announce her departure if Democrats were defeated, to make way for younger leadership as the party turns its sights electorally to the 2024 presidential election. But it is also possible she could seek to stay on as her party’s minority leader.
Pelosi’s spokesperson Drew Hammill tweeted that she will address her colleagues on Thursday about her future plans.
Pelosi retained her 11th District seat in California with 84 per cent of the vote at last count.
An unexpected new factor in Pelosi’s calculus came on Oct. 28, when her husband, Paul, was attacked at their San Francisco residence while she was in Washington, D.C., allegedly by a Canadian who had long overstayed his U.S. visa.
Pelosi, in her first interview after the attack, admitted to CNN that “my decision will be affected [by] what happened the last week or two.” Paul Pelosi is out of hospital but faces a difficult recovery, she said.
WATCH | Footage of Pelosi, other leaders responding in real time to Capitol riot:
Pelosi has served as Speaker between 2007 and 2011, and since 2019. As Speaker, she was instrumental in helping pass arguably the most significant piece of recent U.S. legislation — president Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010.
She was also front and centre during Donald Trump’s presidency, shrugging off his frequent verbal insults while leading the House to an unprecedented two impeachments of the 45th president.
During the deadly Jan. 6, 2021, riot in which a mob in denial of Trump’s failed re-election bid breached the Capitol, voices were heard in the halls yelling for Pelosi. Several individuals gained access to Pelosi’s office and stole items while she was elsewhere on the grounds, resulting in criminal prosecutions.
The attacker at her San Francisco home on Oct. 28 is also alleged to have wanted to confront her.
35 years in Congress
Pelosi, the daughter of Thomas D’Alessandro Sr., both a U.S. congressman and mayor of Baltimore, first entered the House in 1987. At the time, she was one of just two-dozen women in the 435-member chamber, a number that climbed to 101 in the 117th session of Congress that’s about to expire.
Pelosi succeeded Dick Gephardt as House Minority Leader in 2002, becoming the first woman to lead a U.S. party on Capitol Hill.
“I’m not finished yet. I’ve been waiting over 200 years for this,” she said at the time.
Pelosi opposed the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq and became Speaker after the Republicans lost the 2006 midterms. One of her most consequential decisions early on was to marshal House Democratic support for a Wall Street bailout package in the final weeks of Bush’s presidency in 2008 as a global financial crisis erupted.
Just over a year later, Pelosi was seen as a driving force in corralling reluctant Democrats in battleground districts into supporting Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
“We will go through the gate,” she said at the height of negotiations. “If the gate is closed, we will go over the fence. If the fence is too high, we will pole-vault in. If that doesn’t work, we will parachute in. But we are going to get health-care reform passed.”
Signed into law in March 2010, it has expanded access to health insurance for tens of millions of Americans.
But she found herself back in the minority position, succeeded as Speaker by John Boehner, after the Republicans drubbed the Democrats in the 2014 midterms.
Pelosi regained the gavel as Speaker at the midway point of Trump’s presidency.
The theme of the <a href=” Fall 2019 show is “The Politics of Glamour” inspired in part by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s star turn in a Max Mara coat during a showdown with Trump over the government shutdown, says creative director Ian Griffiths. <a href=” <a href=” <a href=”https://t.co/URjmKxlh9x”>pic.twitter.com/URjmKxlh9x</a>
Trump’s penchant for allowing cameras into White House meetings with members of both parties meant the public saw Pelosi on more than one occasion joust with, and fact-check, Trump.
Departing the White House coolly after one such occasion, Pelosi inspired internet memes, her red Max Mara coat soon rushed back into production by the designer. On another occasion, Glamour magazine marvelled at her eight-hour defence of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program in the House while wearing her trademark stilettos.
A supporter of NAFTA in the 1990s, Pelosi has at times rankled progressive members of her party for what they saw as coziness with corporate America. Her estimated net worth — her husband has been a venture capitalist — is over $100 million US.
She has also defended stock purchases by Congress members despite a number of fresh controversies involving members of both parties.
After Democrats recaptured House control in the 2018 midterms, a new wave of progressive members — highlighted by Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and the so-called Squad members — were more publicly vocal in occasional criticisms of Democratic leadership in matters of policy and impeachment. Pelosi deputies James Clyburn and Steny Hoyer are also over 80 years old.
After the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, Pelosi eventually approved the House select committee examining the events leading to that day. While Republican House leadership rejected both a commission and a committee, Pelosi was able to recruit Republicans Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger to the panel.
Footage played at the most recent committee hearing showed Pelosi on Jan. 6, 2021, coolly working the phones to try and ensure police and military reinforcements were coming to protect members of Congress, while also excoriating Trump.
With the House now in Republican control effective in January, that committee is expected to disband, but not before producing a final report.