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Nancy Pelosi, 82, Stands Down as Leader of US House Democrats after 19 Years

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Nancy Pelosi, who has led Democrats in the US House of Representatives for almost two decades, has announced she is standing down from the role.

The 82-year-old is the most powerful Democrat in Congress and the first woman to serve as speaker of the House.

She will continue to represent her California district in the lower chamber of Congress.

It comes as Republicans are projected to take back control of the House following the midterm elections.

Republican Kevin McCarthy has won the party’s nomination to be speaker in the new Congress and is likely to succeed Mrs Pelosi as speaker.

Speaker of the House is the one congressional job detailed in the US Constitution. After the vice-president, it is next in line to the presidency.

The speaker and their deputies and committee chairs determine what bills are considered and voted on. They set the agenda and decide the rules governing debate.

Mrs Pelosi became minority leader, the title held by the person leading the opposition in the House, in 2003.

The Democrats then took control of the House for the first time in more than a decade in 2006, and she became the first woman to lead a major party in either chamber of Congress.

Mrs Pelosi became minority leader again four years later but returned to the speaker’s chair in 2018.

The first woman to lead a major party in either chamber of the US Congress, Nancy Pelosi will also go down in history as one of the most effective – an invaluable asset for Democrats and a formidable opponent for Republicans.

Her legislative acumen, her ability to keep a restless party united when it matters, and her instinct for political theatre have made her a force on Capitol Hill, as well as a lightning rod for criticism from her detractors.

She wasn’t the most telegenic Democratic leader. Her speeches and press conference were hardly inspirational. But her ability to keep her fractious and often slim majority in the chamber together on key votes had few rivals.

Her political instincts were invariably sound, and her sense of legislative timing – when to push and when to wait and what it would take to win a vote – was impeccable. And she did it in an era where the House leadership had incentives, such as earmarked spending authorisations, to keep recalcitrant back-benchers in line.

Her strength has come at a price, however. It is in part because of these abilities that she became a hobgoblin of the right – a villain whose name or imagine headlined countless fundraising pitches and political adverts.

 

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