After almost two decades leading the House Democratic Caucus, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Thursday that she will step down from her leadership role in the next congressional session.
Pelosi became the leader of the caucus in 2003 and became the first female speaker of the House in 2007. She has had two separate stints as House speaker and minority leader but has consistently been a face of the Democratic Party for a generation.
Pelosi has overseen the passage of many major pieces of legislation during her tenure and was often key to the legislative successes of the Obama and Biden administrations. She also made history on multiple occasions, becoming the first woman to serve in several of the positions she held.
“When I first came to the Floor at six years old, never would I have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House Speaker,” she said during her remarks on Thursday.
Although she will no longer hold a leadership position, Pelosi will keep her seat in the House to guide the next generation of leaders.
Here’s a timeline of Pelosi’s career in Congress, from her first election to her announcement Thursday:
Nancy Pelosi, who served as chairwoman of the California Democratic Party from 1981 to 1983, wins a special election in June to fill the remainder of the term of Rep. Sala Burton (D), who died in office.
She easily prevails in the heavily Democratic district, receiving more than 67 percent of the vote. She more narrowly defeated a San Francisco city supervisor in the primary in April.
Pelosi was 47 years old at the time.
Pelosi sponsors legislation in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing to allow Chinese students in the United States at the time to be able to seek permanent residency without returning home first.
The House approved the bill unanimously, and the Senate approved it by voice vote, but then-President George H.W. Bush vetoed it, reasoning that he already planned to use his executive powers to give the students the protections the bill would offer.
The Chinese government also had threatened to cut off future student exchanges if the bill became law.
The House voted to override Bush’s veto, but the Senate fell a few votes short of the necessary two-thirds majority.
Pelosi would be a strong advocate for human rights in China throughout her career.
The Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program goes into effect following advocacy from Pelosi. The program, which Congress approved as part of the National Affordable Housing Act of 1990, to provide affordable housing for low-income people with HIV and AIDS.
The legislation is one of Pelosi’s first legislative victories, and she becomes a proponent of providing protection and funding to help people living with the virus.
A provision of legislation that becomes known as the Pelosi Amendment goes into effect. The amendment, which was approved in 1989, requires international financial institutions, including the World Bank, to allow the assessment of environmental impacts of proposed loans.
It also instructs U.S. representatives on the boards of these institutions to vote against any loans not subject to this public scrutiny.
Pelosi begins serving on the House Intelligence Committee, where she would serve for a decade, making her the longest-serving member in the committee’s history. She serves as the committee’s ranking member from 2000 to 2003 and continues to serve as an ex officio member after.
President Clinton signs a bill into law to preserve the Presidio of San Francisco following a multi-year effort from Pelosi. The Presidio was a military post from 1776 until the Army closed it in 1994, transferring it to the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and putting its future in jeopardy.
The legislation creates a public-private partnership to preserve the park and allow it to become financially self-sufficient. Pelosi initially sponsored the bill to provide funding for the park in 1994, and it passed the House but failed in the Senate.
The effort to pass the bill was renewed in the next session of Congress, which was controlled by the GOP, and was successful. Pelosi helped secure more than $300 million in federal funding for the trust, which was set to be financially independent by 2013.
Pelosi is elected as House minority whip, the highest rank a woman had ever reached in Congress at the time. She narrowly defeated Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), with whom she would work closely in Democratic leadership, to win the role, which she assumes early the next year.
Pelosi splits with then-House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) and much of her own party in voting against the resolution authorizing the Bush administration to take military action in Iraq. Pelosi said in a statement announcing her decision that she was not convinced that all diplomatic remedies had been exhausted.
Serving as the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, she said she did not see any evidence or intelligence that Iraq posed an “imminent threat” to the U.S. She remains a strong opponent of the war as it continues.
Pelosi is elected House minority leader, the first woman to hold the role, after Gephardt declines to run for leadership again ahead of his planned 2004 presidential run. She wins with an overwhelming number of caucus members supporting her bid.
Pelosi successfully organizes almost unanimous Democratic opposition to block President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. Bush put forward reforming the program as his top domestic priority days after winning the 2004 presidential election.
Bush mentioned the plan in his 2005 State of the Union address and said that he planned to use the political capital he gained from his reelection on this initiative, but Pelosi and Democrats rallied opposition from the American people to the plan.
Polls showed widespread disapproval with Bush’s plan, and the president eventually pulled the idea.
Pelosi is elected the first female speaker of the House after Democrats pick up more than 30 seats in the body to win a majority. Democrats unanimously chose her as their nominee almost exactly 16 years before her announcement Thursday that she would step down from party leadership.
She also became the first Italian American to be elected speaker.
President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, one of the most significant legislative accomplishments of his presidency, into law. Pelosi was essential in gathering enough votes for the legislation to pass, working for months to win over the necessary support from members of the liberal and more conservative Democrats.
Obama said before signing the bill into law that Pelosi was “one of the best speakers” that the House has ever had.
Pelosi becomes minority leader for a second time after Democrats lose control of the House. She fended off a challenge from a conservative Democrat to remain the leader of the caucus.
Pelosi holds onto her position leading House Democrats despite some talks of replacing her after the party lost multiple House special elections in a row. She defended her record at a press conference and her abilities as a “master legislator” and “strategic, politically astute leader.”
Pelosi becomes House speaker for a second time after Democrats regain the majority in the House following the 2018 midterms. Some Democrats expressed interest in Pelosi stepping aside and the party moving to a new generation of leaders, but she made a deal with them that she would not serve for more than four years as speaker.
The House approves two articles of impeachment against President Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress following an investigation into a phone call he made with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in July of that year.
Pelosi initiated the formal House inquiry into the matter, which concluded that Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine to try to pressure Zelensky into launching an investigation into President Biden, whom Trump saw as a top competitor for the 2020 election, and his son, Hunter.
Trump was ultimately acquitted of the charges in the Senate.
Pelosi tears up a copy of Trump’s State of the Union address after he finishes delivering it, gaining widespread attention. She told reporters after that it was “the courteous thing to do given the alternatives.”
Trump appeared to ignore Pelosi’s offer for a handshake earlier. The speech came as the Senate was in the midst of Trump’s impeachment trial.
Pelosi calls on Trump to resign in the aftermath of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection, promising to begin impeachment proceedings if he did not do so or if he was not removed by the Cabinet under the 25th Amendment to the Constitution.
After Trump did not step down and his Cabinet did not remove him, the House impeached him for a second time, with all Democrats and 10 Republicans voting in favor. A majority of the Senate voted in favor of convicting him for the charge of inciting violence, but the body did not reach the required two-thirds majority needed for a conviction.
Pelosi maintains her role as House speaker after Democrats lose seats in the body in the 2020 elections but keep a majority. She leads House Democrats in passing major legislative accomplishments from the Biden administration, including the American Rescue Plan, to fight against the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the bipartisan infrastructure investment package.
Pelosi becomes the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan as Beijing steps up its threats toward the self-governing island. She previously visited in 1999 as a House member.
She maintained that the visit did not violate the One China policy, in which the U.S. only recognizes Beijing as the legitimate Chinese government but considers Taiwan’s status to be unsettled.
Pelosi announces she will not run for another term in House Democratic leadership but will remain in Congress, representing her House district.