Sometime around noon, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will walk out onto the House floor to take her final bow after 19 years as head of the Democratic caucus with a speech about passing the torch from one generation to the next, I’m told. But instead of riding high into retirement, as has long been assumed, or becoming ambassador to Italy—a diplomatic posting the White House has been holding open for her—Pelosi will announce that she plans to stay in Congress as a backbencher, roaming the halls in a sort of emeritus role and helping to guide Democrats through their turn in the minority.
The decision to step down from leadership was reached over the weekend, as I reported on Monday, after Pelosi crafted a retirement speech with the help of the celebrity historian and presidential biographer Jon Meacham, a favorite of the Democratic elite, including Joe Biden, for exactly these types of moments. I was told there were multiple drafts of the speech, signifying Pelosi’s indecision and the fluidity of the midterm election results.
But the decision to stay on as a backbencher was only reached days ago. On Wednesday, the move was floated in the New York Times under the headline “Will Pelosi Stay or Will She Go? Perhaps a Little Bit of Both.” By that point, I’m told, Pelosi had torn up the Meacham draft, repurposing the best pieces of it for her own handcrafted speech that threads the needle to account for her post-speakership, chairman-like role.