House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that she will not seek a leadership position in the new Congress, making way for a new era after Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans in the midterm elections.

Pelosi announced in a spirited speech on the House floor that she will step aside after leading Democrats for nearly 20 years and in the aftermath of a brutal hammer attack on her husband, Paul, last month in their San Francisco home.

“I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress,” she said. “For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect.”

The California Democrat, 82, who rose to become the nation’s only woman to wield the speaker’s gavel, said she would remain in Congress as the representative from San Francisco, a position she has held for 35 years, when the new Congress convenes in January.

Now, she said, “we must move boldly into the future.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi speaks on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.

Pelosi received a standing ovation after her remarks, and lawmakers, one by one, went up to offer her hugs, many taking selfies of a moment in history. President Joe Biden spoke with Pelosi in the morning and congratulated her on her historic tenure as speaker of the House.

“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history,” Biden said in a statement, noting her ability to win unity from her caucus and her “absolute dignity.”

Democratic ally and colleague Senate Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined lawmakers on the chamber floor, offering Pelosi a hug and a kiss.

“Few in American history have been as effective, as driven, as successful as Speaker Pelosi,” Schumer said. “She transformed practically every corner of American politics, and unquestionably made America a better, stronger nation.”

Pelosi says she has no plans to endorse a successor or meddle with the new leaders.

“I have no intention of being the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying, ‘My son doesn’t like the stuffing that way,’” Pelosi said in a wide-ranging interview with reporters at the Capitol.

“They will have their vision, they will have their plan.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., hugs Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of N.Y., after she spoke on the House floor at the Capitol in Washington Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022.

Minutes after Pelosi’s announcement, Rep. Steny Hoyer, Pelosi’s top lieutenant, also said he was stepping down from leadership, clearing the decks for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) to take over as House Democratic leader.

Hoyer said after Pelosi’s remarks that “it is the time for a new generation of leaders” and that he will also step down from leadership but stay in Congress. Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black American in Congress, has said he expects to stay in Congress next year and hopes to remain at the leadership table.

Jeffries, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California have similarly moved as a trio, all working toward becoming the next generation of leaders. Jeffries could make history if he enters the race to become the nation’s first Black speaker of the House if the Democrats return to the majority.

One idea circulating on Capitol Hill was that Pelosi and the others could emerge as emeritus leaders as they pass the baton to new Democrats.

Outgoing US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi (L), Democrat of California, greets Representative Hakeem Jeffries, Democrat of New York, after speaking in the House Chamber at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on November 17, 2022.

First elected to the House in 1987, Pelosi became the trailblazing first woman to be House Speaker. She has long been caricatured by Republicans as the prototypical San Francisco liberal. But Pelosi, whose father was a powerful congressman from Baltimore, has proven her political skill as an adroit legislator, astute vote counter and fundraising powerhouse.

FILE - Thomas D'Alesandro, Jr., former Mayor of Baltimore, talks on March 28, 1961, at the White House in Washington with President John Kennedy after taking the oath to become a member of the Federal Renegotiation Board. Anunciata D'Alesandro and their daughter, Nancy, left, are in the background.

Her Democratic colleagues in various party factions alternately appreciated and also feared Pelosi’s powerful brand of leadership.

Pelosi’s legacy includes passage of the landmark Affordable Care Act during the administration of former President Barack Obama and two impeachments of former President Donald Trump.

Nancy Pelosi in 1987.

And then there was Jan. 6, 2021 when rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol to halt the planned certification of the 2020 presidential election results. It would be hours before the building was secure.

Never-before-seen video footage played by the House Jan. 6 committee showed Pelosi and other leaders, including Republican allies of President Donald Trump, responding anxiously — and angrily — to the insurrection.

“There has to be some way,” she told colleagues, “we can maintain the sense that people have that there is some security or some confidence that government can function and that you can elect the president of the United States.”

At one point, Pelosi said of Trump, “I’m gonna punch him out.”

House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., arrives to meet with his fellow Democrats, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 17, 2022. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told lawmakers today she will step down as Democratic leader but remain in Congress.

In an interview with reporters after her announcement, Pelosi said in the end, after the election, she decided to step down.

“I quite frankly, personally, have been ready to leave for a while,” she said. “Because there are things I want to do. I like to dance, I like to sing. There’s a life out there, right?”

With News Wire Services

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