Pelosi's big decision: 'There’s a life out there, right?'
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the attack on her husband, Paul, by an intruder in their family home made her think about staying on as the House Democratic leader because she “couldn't give them that satisfaction” of intimidating her out of politics.
But Pelosi said Thursday she was ready to step aside and felt “balanced” about her decision to make way for a new generation of leaders.
She's staying as the congresswoman of San Francisco but has no plans to endorse a successor or meddle with the new leaders.
"I have no intention of being the mother-in-law in the kitchen saying, ‘My son doesn’t like the stuffing that way,’" Pelosi said in a wide-ranging interview with reporters at the Capitol.
"They will have their vision, they will have their plan."
As for the future direction of the House Democrats, she said: “That's up to them, I want it to be whatever they want it to be.”
Pelosi, who is 82, spoke to reporters in the “The Board of Education” Room, a historic space once frequented after hours only by the men in Congress, after she announced her decision to step down after 20 years as the party leader. Her action followed the midterm elections t hat gave Republicans control of the House.
First elected in 1987, when there were just 12 Democratic women in Congress, Pelosi said she chose to wear white to deliver her speech on the House floor Thursday in a nod to the suffragettes — noting a painting of the women with the 19th Amendment she had installed in the gilded meeting room alongside one of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.
Digging into a package of cookies — chocolate chip, of course — the speaker would not say exactly when she made her decision to step aside.
She keeps a close hold on her most important decisions, and even now, once it had spilled out in the open, said how she finally arrived at her choice was something she might have to think more about. It was known that she took two versions of her speech home with her for review Wednesday night.
“I, quite frankly, personally, have been ready to leave for a while," she said. "Because there are things I want to do. I like to dance, I like to sing. There’s a life out there, right?”
Pelosi said that after 20 years, “I don’t feel sad about not having a leadership position. ...I feel balanced about it.”
She has said that the attack on Paul Pelosi, who suffered a fractured skull when an intruder broke into their home weeks before the election searching for her, had weighed on her decision. But she said Thursday that it had the “opposite effect" from what some had interpreted.
“It made me think again about staying,” she said. “I couldn’t give them that satisfaction.”
Had Democrats been able to retain majority control of the House, she indicated, that too might have prompted a different outcome: “I would have prayed over it.”
Pelosi insisted she has much to do representing her California district, but said she won't likely be taking any committee assignments typically coveted by other lawmakers — particularly a seat on the Appropriations Committee that crafts federal funding bills that are important for states.
And she plans to get to work reviewing the 2022 election results and preparing for the next big votes in 2024.
Long seen as a powerful figure, one who controls and even micromanages many aspects of House leadership —- from the way the bills are written to the timing of votes to the running of congressional campaigns — she said she expects to play no role guiding the next generation of leaders.
“They have to bring their own fresh perspective, thinking entrepreneurially,” she said.
She won't be endorsing a successor ahead of party elections at the end of the month — “I didn’t think that was the right approach, to anoint somebody,” she said. She said it's “really important for people to have the legitimacy that they were chosen” by their colleagues.
Her advice to those who follow her leadership: “Be yourself.”
As for upcoming political battles, she questioned whether Republican Kevin McCarthy, a fellow Californian, would have the support needed to become speaker.
And she said she doesn't "take any responsibility” for the political divisions in Congress, blaming it on Republican extremism: “They do not believe in governance.”
While Pelosi expressed some regret that Democrats were unable to make permanent an expanded child tax credit or paid family medical leave as they had considered at the start of Joe Biden's presidency, she believes her party will have some leverage in the new Congress because of the House Republicans' slim majority.
“There has to be work for other people to do,” she said.
Pelosi said her husband of nearly 60 years continues to recover from the assault — the intruder struck him in the head with a hammer — but that the road ahead is long.
Sitting still, without too many people — limiting visits with the children and grandchildren — and avoiding recurring memories of the assault are key, she explained.
“It's really hard,” she said, acknowledging a form of “survivor's guilt" since the attack was aimed at her and turned their home into a “crime scene.”
But the leader long reviled by Republicans as a San Francisco liberal announced she was off to do the most very un-California thing she does most workdays: “I will now have a very nutritious hot dog for lunch.”