House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced on Thursday that she will relinquish her leadership post after leading House Democrats for two decades, building a legacy as one of the most powerful and polarizing figures in American politics.
Pelosi’s long reign became a source of tension within her own party. She won the gavel after the 2018 elections by promising Democrats that she would leave her leadership post by 2022.
House Democrats appear likely to choose New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 52, to succeed Pelosi as leader, though Democrats won’t vote until Nov. 30.
After her speech Thursday, Pelosi wouldn’t tell reporters who she would support. But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn announced they would also step down from their leadership posts, and endorsed Jeffries to succeed Pelosi.
Hoyer said Jeffries “will make history for the institution of the House and for our country.” Clyburn added that he hoped Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark and California Rep. Pete Aguilar would join Jeffries in House Democratic leadership.
Before Pelosi’s announcement, Ohio Rep. Joyce Beatty, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, told CNN that she expects her caucus to throw their support behind Jeffries and help him become the first Black House Democratic leader.
“If she steps aside, I’m very clear that Hakeem Jeffries is the person that I will be voting for and leading the Congressional Black Caucus to vote for,” said Beatty. “I don’t always speak for everybody, but I’m very comfortable saying I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries.”
Retiring North Carolina Rep. G.K. Butterfield, a former CBC chairman, told CNN that Jeffries “is prepared for the moment” if Pelosi steps aside. Butterfield said he thought Jeffries would run.
Pelosi told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union” on Sunday that members of her caucus had asked her to “consider” running in the party’s leadership elections at the end of the month, adding: “But, again, let’s just get through the election.”
Any decision to run again, the longtime Democratic leader had said, “is about family, and also my colleagues. And what we want to do is go forward in a very unified way, as we go forward to prepare for the Congress at hand.”
“Nonetheless, a great deal is at stake because we’ll be in a presidential election. So my decision will again be rooted in the wishes of my family and the wishes of my caucus,” she continued. “But none of it will be very much considered until we see what the outcome of all of this is. And there are all kinds of ways to exert influence.”