In her own words: Pelosi steps back after decades in charge

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In her own words: Pelosi steps back after decades in charge

Story by Paul Kane • 12h ago

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) officially steps back from her leadership position this week after 20 years of guiding House Democrats, marking the end of a history-making tenure that saw her take the gavel twice.

Pelosi, the first and only woman to be chosen as speaker of the House, will again be sworn in to the House on Tuesday for another term, but this one as a rank-and-file member with no special privileges. It will be the first time she is sworn in without a leadership position in more than 20 years.

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In recent weeks, Pelosi has grown reflective, a change from the more steely outward posture she has shown in the previous couple decades on the Hill. But she has also grown irritated with questions about whether she intends to serve a full two-year term, as ambitious Democrats back home in San Francisco have spent the past several years eyeing her departure and prepping bids for the seat.

Pelosi, 82, held court twice recently with a small group of reporters in the “Board of Education” room on the first floor of the Capitol — a small, ornate room that used to be the men-only haunt of the only House member to lead a caucus longer than Pelosi: the legendary Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn. Pelosi has retrofitted the room away from a Texas-macho vibe into a tribute to women’s suffrage and nods to the West, including a painting of the Golden Gate Bridge.

In her own words: Pelosi steps back after decades in charge

Pelosi travels back to Capitol Hill in January 2003.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer speaks to Pelosi on Capitol Hill on Jan. 8, 2003.

Pelosi takes calls in her office in Washington in January 2003.

I was born into a family that was devoutly Catholic, fiercely patriotic, proud of our Italian American heritage and staunchly Democrat. And we saw that connection between church and Democrats as the Gospel of Matthew. … And that was how we were raised, that we had a responsibility to other people.

Pelosi speaks with staff on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. in January 2003.

Clockwise from top left: Pelosi joins hands with Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) during a rally for social security on April 26, 2005. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) leans toward Pelosi during a news conference on May 22, 2009. She talks with fellow lawmakers outside her office on Dec. 21, 2010. Pelosi speaks to reporters on June 13, 2011.

Hoyer leans toward Pelosi during a news conference about the first 100 days in Congress on Capitol Hill on May 22, 2009.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi speaks to reporters following a procedural vote concerning Rep. Anthony Weiner's leave of absence request on Capitol Hill on June 13, 2011.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks to fellow lawmakers outside her office on Capitol Hill on Dec. 21, 2010.

This is difficult turf to win on for anyone, but for a woman breaking ground here, it was a tough battle. Pelosi, after being elected Democratic whip in the late 1990s

Top: Pelosi talks to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) along with other lawmakers gathering on Capitol Hill for a ceremony to observe the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Above: Pelosi leads a meeting of House Democratic leadership in her office on the 16th day of a government shutdown, discussing a bill soon to come to the House floor for a vote concerning a temporary raise to the debt ceiling, on Oct. 16, 2013.

Pelosi leads a meeting of House Democratic leadership in her office on the 16th day of a government shutdown, discussing a bill soon to come to the House floor for a vote concerning a temporary raise to the debt ceiling, on Oct. 16, 2013.

Clockwise from top: Pelosi leads the When Women Succeed, America Succeeds rally of women lawmakers in Toledo in 2014. Pelosi greets Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan at the Capitol before a Women's History Month Reception Honoring the Women Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, on March 18, 2015. Pelosi holds John Draper, six months, after a news conference with children's health advocates and families on March 15, 2010.

In her own words: Pelosi steps back after decades in charge

In her own words: Pelosi steps back after decades in charge

When I came to the Congress in 1987, there were 12 Democratic women. Now there are over 90. And we want more.

Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) sleeps while Rep. Donna F. Edwards (D-Md.) and then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi talk about their first day on the When Women Succeed, America Succeeds bus tour on June 2, 2014. Pelosi, and many other female lawmakers journeyed from Seneca Falls, N.Y. to Chicago to talk about issues affecting American women.

Pelosi speaks at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention in San Francisco.

Top: Pelosi is elected to be Speaker of the House of the 116th Congress on Capitol Hill on Jan. 3, 2019. Above: Pelosi has lunch with journalists on Dec. 13 in the Board of Education room adorned with murals she commissioned to honor the 19th Amendment and California Statehood.

Pelosi has lunch with journalists in the Board of Education room adorned with new murals she commissioned to honor the 19th Amendment and California Statehood on Capitol Hill on Dec. 13, 2022.

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Pelosi, seen in 2019 as she was poised to become House speaker of the 116th Congress, fixes her granddaughter Bella Kaufman's hair.

Pelosi and her husband, Paul, attend the ceremony to unveil her official portrait on Dec. 14.

My evaluation of who I am was not tied to my being in the leadership. And I would say that to members. Don’t have who you are be directly related to whether you’re a member of Congress. Why are you here? What is your purpose?

Pelosi takes family pictures on the speaker's balcony on Jan. 3, 2019.

Pelosi is greeted on the floor of the House chamber on the day she is sworn into her leadership position on the first day of the 108th Congress on Jan. 7, 2003.

Pelosi is congratulated by President George W. Bush at the end of the State of the Union on Jan. 23, 2007.

Top: The speaker walks arm-in-arm with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) to the Capitol building ahead of the House vote on the Affordable Care Act on March 21, 2010. Above: Pelosi hugs former Maj. Mike Almy, who was discharged from the Air Force for being gay, as they attend a ceremony to repeal the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy on Dec. 21, 2010.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hugs Former Major Mike Almy, USAF, who was discharged from the Air Force for being gay as they attend the House Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Enrollment Ceremony on Capitol Hill on Dec. 21, 2010.

I call it a kaleidoscope. You just turn that dial, and one day all of you will be opposing all of them. And then, the next day, it will be all of them opposing all of these. And then it will be some conglomeration … But you never want to diminish the strength of anybody because they are a source of strength for you on the next vote.

Vice President Harris and Pelosi arrive before President Biden addresses a joint session of Congress on April 28, 2021. It was the first time two women stood behind a sitting president in the chamber.

From left: Pelosi is elected to be Speaker of the House at the 116th Congress in 2019. She takes a selfie with a record number of women lawmakers in the 116th Congress on the east front of the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2019.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi takes a selfie with a record number of women lawmakers in the 116th Congress on the east front of the US Capitol in Washington DC on Jan. 4, 2019.

Clockwise from top: Pelosi announces the House has selected seven House members to serve as impeachment managers for the upcoming Senate trial of President Trump on Jan. 15, 2020. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) meets with Pelosi in her office on Oct. 2, 2019. Pelosi speaks during a meeting in her office with, from left, Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Schiff on Dec. 10, 2019.

Above: Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) meets with Pelosi in her office on Oct. 2, 2019. Right: Pelosi speaks during a meeting in her office with, from left, Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.), Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Schiff on Dec. 10, 2019.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi speaks to her chairman during a meeting in her office, with (L-R) Chairman Richard E. Neal, Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, Chairwoman Maxine Waters, and House Intelligence Chairman Adam B. Schiff on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on Dec. 10, 2019.

Our founders’ vision of a republic is under threat from actions from the White House. That is why today, as speaker of the House, I solemnly and sadly open the debate on the impeachment of the president of the United States.

From top: Pelosi goes to her desk after presiding over the House passage of two articles of impeachment of President Donald Trump on Dec. 18, 2019. A shattered American flag is among the debris the day after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A week after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Pelosi presides as the House votes to impeach Trump.

A shattered American flag is among the debris the day after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on Jan. 7, 2021.

What would I have done differently? Won more elections and not given (Republicans) the power to do what they did. Make sure that a creature like Donald Trump never became president of the United States.

A week after the Jan. 6 insurrection of the U.S. Capitol, Pelosi presides as the House votes to impeach Trump.

Left: Pelosi answers questions during a meeting on May 5, 2005. Below: The speaker waits in place following the inauguration of President Biden on Jan. 20, 2021.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., waits in place following the inauguration of President Biden in Washington on Jan. 20, 2021.

Members of the press follow Pelosi on Jan. 4, 2019.

You have to compromise. So the members have been spectacular in respecting each other … So, one day, you don’t get your way. The rest of us come to a compromise. You’re annoyed. You’re some fringe element. But you vote with us because tomorrow might be your day, right?

Pelosi works with her staff in the Green Room before her weekly news conference on Feb. 7, 2019.

Top: Pelosi addresses the 2019 the California Democratic Party State Organizing Convention at the Moscone Center in San Francisco on June 1, 2019. Above: Pelosi takes notes ahead of a news conference on Feb. 14, 2019. Right: Pelosi meets with her staff before entering the news conference on Feb. 14, 2019.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi takes notes ahead of her weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on Feb. 14, 2019.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi meets with her staff in the green room concerning the border security conference committee report, which would prevent another government shutdown, before entering a weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on Feb. 14, 2019.

My one piece of advice is always be yourself. The authenticity of you is so very important. And I guess what has served me well is respecting … our Members, each and every one of them, even if I disagree with them.

Pelosi takes pictures with Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and former Speaker of the House John A. Boehner after attending the ceremony of the unveiling of her official portrait in Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill on Dec. 14.

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