The Nancy Pelosi era has come to an end.
After leading the Democrats for the last two decades, the House Speaker announced Thursday that she will step down next year from her spot at the top of the party, closing a momentous run for the most powerful woman in U.S. history while clearing the way for a younger generation of up-and-coming lawmakers to climb into the leadership ranks.
The announcement, which came shortly after late midterm results had officially flipped House control to the Republicans, sent shockwaves across Capitol Hill, as lawmakers in both parties grappled with the thought of a Democratic House without Pelosi at the helm.
Yet the departure is only partial: Pelosi will cede her formal leadership seat, but remain in Congress indefinitely, where she’s aiming to assume a mentorship role and grease the transition for whichever new leader fills the mantle. Such a role would be unprecedented in modern memory — most leaders who step down quickly leave Congress — but Pelosi is not one to do things by the book.
The House chamber during Pelosi’s speech was a study of partisan contrasts. While her Democratic allies packed into their side of the chamber, filling almost every seat, the Republican side of the chamber was virtually empty — a sign of just how polarized Congress has become in recent years.