House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has broken the so-called “marble ceiling” in Congress during her two-decade career as a leader in those chambers.
Her career was top-notch—the first woman elected Speaker of the House of Representatives—and she occupied a particularly high-profile position during some of the most pivotal and often volatile moments in recent American political history.
Her mandate spanned the Iraq War, a financial crisis “from the depths of hell,” as Pelosi later described it, sweeping legislation to regulate Wall Street, expanding health insurance for millions of Americans, a nuclear weapons treaty with Russia, and repealing the policy of the US military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to gay service members. She also oversaw the House impeachments of then-President Donald Trump.
Trump was impeached by the House on two articles of impeachment, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress along party lines. He was acquitted by the Republican-controlled Senate.
Two years later, Pelosi became the first speaker to launch two impeachments against the same sitting president for his role in instigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol during the electoral vote count to confirm victory of Biden in the 2020 presidential election, Pelosi joined other leaders to convene Congress that evening to complete the count.
Her pivotal role in these particularly poignant moments in recent political history often drew the ire of her opponents and made her the target of criticism and physical threats. Prosecutors said the recent attack on her husband, Paul Pelosi, at the couple’s San Francisco home was politically motivated.
Ultimately, however, her decision to step down was focused on making room for a new generation of leaders.
Here’s a look at Pelosi’s career and her influence on this story.
Pelosi broke the marble ceiling
One of the high points of Pelosi’s career would come in 2006, when she led House Democrats to win back the majority of Republicans who had controlled the chamber after the GOP election wave of 1994. The nation was reeling from the war in Iraq and a series of lobbying and ethics scandals gave Democrats a platform to campaign against the “culture of corruption” in Washington, with popular promises to “drain the swamp.”
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It worked, Democrats took control of the House, making big promises to change the way Washington works. “The American people voted to restore integrity and honesty to Washington, and Democrats intend to lead the fairest, most open and most ethical Congress in history,” Pelosi said the day after the election.
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In 2007, after serving in other party leadership roles, she became the first woman elected by her peers as Speaker of the House, forever securing a place in history for breaking the “marble ceiling” of the hitherto male-dominated Congress leadership . She did it again in 2019, becoming the first speaker since legendary Congressman Sam Rayburn to lose and regain the gavel.
Pelosi’s advantageous position spanned four presidencies
After all, Pelosi has served alongside four presidents in her two shifts as speaker — George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump and Joe Biden — two Republicans she utterly despised and two Democrats she couldn’t reach so much without her.
She was one of Bush’s most prominent critics in Congress during the scandal-ridden era on Capitol Hill, compounded by the worsening war in Iraq, the fallout from the administration’s mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and a near economic collapse during of the financial crisis of 2008. “God bless him. Bless his heart. The President of the United States, a complete failure. It’s losing all credibility with the American people, on the economy, on the war, on energy, you name it,” she said of Bush in 2008.
But Pelosi, who often bragged about herself as a “master lawmaker,” also worked with the Bush administration to keep funding for wars abroad — often to the ire of the party’s liberal base — and reliably secured Democratic votes for legislation. , which should be adopted when necessary.
As speaker, Pelosi served as a critical ally to the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, and together they passed into law one of their landmark legislative achievements, the landmark Affordable Care Act of 2010, which moved the nation closer to health coverage for all americans.
She presided over former President Trump’s two impeachments in the House of Representatives, the first with some hesitation about how it would divide the nation over Trump’s role in pressuring the Ukrainian government to investigate the Bidens, and the second with great enthusiasm about Trump’s role in inciting on Jan. , 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol during the counting of electoral votes to ensure Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory. Trump was acquitted by the Senate in both cases.
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Under both the Trump and Biden administrations, Pelosi helped usher in trillions in new spending and government programs as part of public health and economic recovery efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and beyond.
Pelosi was able to help pass trillions of dollars in COVID support through the House of Representatives.
When the Democrats lost the House in the 2022 midterm elections, Pelosi finally did what most Democrats expected her to do a decade earlier and step down from the party leadership and vow to serve in the House.
“History will mark her as the most consistent speaker of the House in our history,” said President Biden when she steps down in November 2022, who praised her as “a singular force delivering once-in-a-generation bills.” it will define our nation for decades to come.”
Unlike other lawmakers running for Congress, Pelosi has never harbored political ambitions beyond the presidency. From the day she first took the gavel to the floor of the House, she knew she had earned her place in history as a female political icon.
“For our daughters and granddaughters: today we broke the marble ceiling,” Pelosi said in 2007. “For our daughters and granddaughters, the sky is now the limit — anything is possible for them.”