House Democrats reelected Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 80, as their leader on Wednesday via a virtual vote. Pelosi told reporters that she would stick by her promise made to progressives in 2018 to step aside after two more terms, possibly making this her last term.
To be sworn in as House Speaker, Pelosi will need a simple majority from the full House of Representatives in January.
Pelosi’s top deputies — Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, 81, and Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, 80 — were also reelected as majority leader and Democratic whip, respectively. The three have governed the Democratic Party for more than a decade and faced demands in 2018 to cede power to a younger, more progressive generation of Democrats.
“We never expected to have another term now,” Pelosi said. “I consider this a gift, and I can’t wait to be working with Joe Biden and preparing us for our transition into the future.”
Pelosi added that though a Democratic push to put term limits on leadership and committee chairs never bore fruit, she said she would abide by limits whether or not legislation was passed.
“I don’t want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement,” she said.
Pelosi, who has represented the 12th Congressional District in California for more than three decades, made history in 2007 when she was elected as the first woman to lead the House of Representatives, where she served for two terms. She made history again in 2019 when she regained her position for her third term as second-in-line to the presidency — the first person to do so in more than 60 years.
President-elect Joe Biden called Pelosi on Wednesday to congratulate her. He is looking “forward to working with her and Democratic leadership in the House on a shared agenda to get COVID-19 under control,” according to a statement from his office.
Democrats held onto their majority in the House this election cycle, though with a slimmer margin after Republicans flipped at least 11 seats across the country. At least 36 Republican women have been elected to the House, far surpassing the record of 25 in 2006. Only 13 Republican women served in 2020.
California Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee, who, as co-chair of the steering and policy committee, is the highest-ranking Black woman in Congress, told The 19th that Pelosi has done what no else could, showing that “women lead on each and every issue.”
“When you look at Speaker Pelosi’s history and record, she’s probably been the greatest speaker ever because she’s had the most diverse caucus,” Lee said.
The Baltimore-native has led House Democrats for 16 years and previously served as House Democratic whip in 2001. Under her leadership, and in partnership with President Barack Obama, the House passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 to provide relief to American families. She was also one of the key players behind the Affordable Care Act — which has provided coverage for tens of millions of Americans — and worked to pass the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act to combat the climate crisis.
In 2013, Pelosi was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. She was instrumental in the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to combat pay discrimination against women. The speaker has worked “tirelessly to increase the number of women in public service” and has “paved the way for many more women to enter politics,” according to the hall of fame.