By Philip Rucker and Paul Kane, The Washington Post
Here’s how she’s letting go of the gavel.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi strode into the chamber, which Tuesday morning was silent and mostly empty. She called the House to order. She stood for the monsignor’s prayer. She remained standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. Then she hurried off. On what was probably her last full day as speaker, Pelosi held the gavel for no more than five minutes.
There was no time for a valedictory or even a toast. Pelosi still had history to make, inequities to erase, strategies to craft. As she quickly crossed Statuary Hall, tourists cried out: “Speaker! Speaker!” The nation’s first female speaker, and one of history’s most consequential, waved but did not stop.
The California Democrat was installed four years ago with the attendant pomp and then some. There was a Mass in her native Baltimore, a gala dinner at the Italian Embassy, and a Jimmy Buffet and Carole King concert. She took the oath of office and rejoiced in having “broken the marble ceiling.” Her grandchildren joined her at the rostrum and touched her gavel.
But as Pelosi relinquishes the speakership to return to her earlier post as leader of the Democratic minority, she is avoiding any markings of transition. Her personal photos and plaques are packed in boxes, her office furniture stacked in a hallway. But she’s not moving very far and says she has more work to do.
“We’ll just see what we come up with in the next 24 hours,” Pelosi said in a brief interview Tuesday. “Come January, I’ve played that role before, as minority leader, and look forward to going forward there, hopefully extending the hand of friendship for as much bipartisanship as we can achieve but also watching to see what direction the Congress goes in and making our points of difference known.”
In the minority, Pelosi will be freed from the ceremonial duties of being speaker and crafting a governing agenda. Instead, lawmakers say, she is likely to more narrowly focus on defending Democratic legislative accomplishments and serving as a liberal check on President Obama‘s compromises with Republican leaders.
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