Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic leader in the US House of Representatives for nearly two decades, has announced her resignation.
The 82-year-old is the most powerful Democrat in Congress and the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House.
She will continue to represent her California district in the lower chamber of Congress.
It comes as Republicans are expected to retake control of the House following the midterm elections.
Republican Kevin McCarthy has won his party’s nomination for speaker of the new Congress and is expected to succeed Nancy Pelosi.
“I never would have thought that someday I would go from homemaker to House speaker,” Mrs Pelosi said in a statement in the chamber on Thursday.
“I will not seek re-election to Democratic leadership in the next Congress. The hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus,” she said.
Mrs Pelosi will serve as speaker until January when a new Congress takes over, and will remain in the seat she first took up in 1987 until January 2025.
New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries is widely expected to take over as House Democratic leader, making him the first black congressional leader in US history.
The only congressional job specified in the US Constitution is that of Speaker of the House. It is the second in line to the presidency after the vice-president.
What bills are considered and voted on are determined by the speaker, their deputies, and the committee chairs. They set the agenda and establish the ground rules for debate.
Mrs Pelosi became minority leader, the title held by the person leading the opposition in the House, in 2003. The Democrats then took control of the House for the first time in more than a decade in 2006, and she became the first woman to lead a major party in either chamber of Congress.
Mrs Pelosi became minority leader again four years later but returned to the speaker’s chair in 2018.
Nancy Pelosi, the first woman to lead a major party in either chamber of the United States Congress, will also be remembered as one of the most effective – an invaluable asset for Democrats and a formidable opponent for Republicans.
Her legislative acumen, ability to keep a fractious party united when it matters, and instinct for political theater have made her a force on Capitol Hill, as well as a lightning rod for her detractors’ criticism.
She was not the most appealing Democratic leader. Her speeches and press conference were not particularly inspiring. Her ability to keep her fractious and frequently slim majority in the chamber together on key votes, on the other hand, had few rivals.
Her political instincts were invariably sound, and her sense of legislative timing – when to push and when to wait and what it would take to win a vote – was impeccable. And she did it in an era where the House leadership had incentives, such as earmarked spending authorisations, to keep recalcitrant back-benchers in line.
Her strength has come at a price, however. It is in part because of these abilities that she became a hobgoblin of the right – a villain whose name or imagine headlined countless fundraising pitches and political adverts.
During the Capitol riot on 6 January 2021, supporters of President Donald Trump stormed through the Capitol building in search of the speaker and were photographed trashing her office and placing their feet on her desk.
The duration and depth of her grip on House Democrats, stretching over two decades, has also stunted the growth of younger leaders within the chamber, who have waited years to have their chance to move up in the party’s command structure. Now, at last, they may get their chance. But they will have large shoes to fill.
Mrs. Pelosi’s role as speaker was critical in advancing – or thwarting – the agendas of multiple presidents.
She is widely credited with shepherding former President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare legislation, as well as bills addressing infrastructure and climate change under current President Joe Biden.
Throughout his presidency, Mrs. Pelosi has directly challenged Donald Trump, famously ripping up a copy of his State of the Union address behind his back.
John Lawrence, a former chief of staff to Mrs Pelosi, told the BBC he expected her to play an important role in counselling new members of Congress and working with the White House now that Democrats were in the minority again.
“There’s never really a good time to leave,” he said. “When you’re in the ascendancy, you want to accomplish a great deal, and when things are going against you, you want to fight back.”