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Nancy Pelosi, the 82-year-old Congresswoman from San Francisco, California, announced early on Nov. 18 (Singapore time) in a speech in the House of Representatives that she would step aside as leader of the House Democrats, CNN reported.
She will however remain in the House as a Representative.
"For me, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect. And I am grateful that so many are ready and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility," Pelosi said, according to The New York Times.
Long road to the top
The daughter of a Baltimore politician, Pelosi was a housewife before getting involved in politics after moving to San Francisco. She first won election to Congress in 1987.
Pelosi has broken ground for women in U.S. politics, being the first woman to serve as House minority whip (the representative in charge of corralling votes) and House minority leader.
When the Democratic party won control of the House in the 2006 midterm elections, Pelosi was elevated to the position of Speaker, the first woman to do so in U.S. history.
A consequential Speaker
As Speaker, Pelosi notched up historic legislative wins, including shepherding forner President Barack Obama's signature Affordable Care Act through Congress and into law.
She worked with Republicans when the occasion arose, including with former President George W Bush to pass the TARP Act amidst the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, when the president could not get enough votes he needed from members of his own party.
Pelosi has also been prominent in U.S. foreign policy, leading Congressional delegations to the Middle East and Afghanistan.
As a young Representative, Pelosi visited Tiananmen Square in 1991, just two years after the massacre of student protesters by the Chinese government, and unrolled a banner commemorating their deaths.
28 years ago, we traveled to Tiananmen Square to honor the courage & sacrifice of the students, workers & ordinary citizens who stood for the dignity & human rights that all people deserve. To this day, we remain committed to sharing their story with the world. #Tiananmen30 pic.twitter.com/7UqiJVRS3t— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) June 4, 2019
She also caused a consternation in 2022 by visiting Taiwan, a visit that was fiercely opposed by the Chinese government.
The visit of more Senators and Representatives to Taiwan shortly after Pelosi's visit, for some reason, drew much less attention.
Pelosi and Trump
However, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency would arguably bring about Pelosi's biggest challenges and shine the spotlight more brightly on her actions.
She clashed with the president on numerous occasions, including the government shutdown of 2019 that ended with Trump receiving less funding for his border wall than he demanded.
As the highest ranking Democrat following the 2018 midterm elections, Pelosi became something of a symbol of opposition to Trump, with moments like applauding Trump's state of the union speech and pointing at Trump during a fiery White House meeting going viral on social media.
During the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters in 2020, Pelosi organised the certification of Biden's presidential victory even as she was targeted by the rioters.
In October 2022, Pelosi's husband Paul was attacked and severely injured by a suspect who had apparently posted about conspiracy theories and defended Trump online.
The victory of the House Republicans in the midterms meant that Pelosi would not be serving as Speaker next year, even if she continued as leader of the House Democrats.
In her speech, Pelosi paid tribute to three presidents she had worked with in her time as Speaker, while making no mention of the fourth.
"I have enjoyed working with three presidents, achieving historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush; transformative health care reform with President Barack Obama; and forging — and forging the future from infrastructure to health care to climate action with President Joe Biden."
Top image from Getty Images.
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