Nancy Pelosi stepping down from leadership role after midterm losses that cost Dems House majority

It’s the end of an era for Democrats, and the nation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi told fellow lawmakers Thursday she will step aside from the top Democratic leadership role she has held for nearly two decades in the House.

The announcement, delivered to a packed House chamber, comes a day after Republicans officially clinched the majority, albeit a small one, that will give them control of the gavel once again after losing it four years ago.

Mrs. Pelosi, 82, isn’t retiring from Congress, yet. She plans to stick around and play an advisory role for the leadership team, which is about to undergo the biggest shuffle in more than 15 years. She’ll continue to represent her congressional district in San Francisco, a seat she’s held since 1987.

Mrs. Pelosi’s decision comes as House Democrats clamor for fresh faces in leadership and a chance for some of them to climb the power ladder in Washington.

Her possible successors include Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 52, of New York, who serves as caucus chairman, the House Democrats’ messaging chief.

There’s no indication yet as to whether Mrs. Pelosi’s deputies, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, or Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, 82, will also depart from leadership. But Mrs. Pelosi’s exit is likely to invite challenges to the entire leadership team.

Mrs. Pelosi’s decision launches the beginning of a new era for House Democrats, the majority of whom have known no other leader than Mrs. Pelosi.

She’s been in House Democratic leadership since her historic rise to minority whip in 2002, when she broke into an elite leadership club that had long excluded women.

A year later, in 2003, she ascended to minority leader, the party’s top leadership post in the House, defeating Mr. Hoyer, who had also sought the position.

Within three years, she steered House Democrats to a historic election win that gave them the majority for the first time in 12 years and made her the first woman to hold the speaker’s gavel.

She’s set another record as well, serving as the nation’s oldest House speaker.

Mrs. Pelosi’s decision to stay in office is not unprecedented. Rep. Dennis J. Hastert, an Illinois Republican, stepped down from leadership after he lost the speaker’s gavel in the 2006 election. He remained in office until 2007.

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