NANCY Pelosi, the controversial Speaker of the US House of Representatives, is stepping down.
The 82-year-old Democrat has been leader of her party's caucus in the chamber since 2003 and has served nearly eight years as Speaker, in two spells.
Pelosi is the first woman to hold the post of speaker. She will remain in Congress, representing San Francisco in the House as she has done for 35 years.
It comes a day after Republicans secured a narrow majority following the midterm elections. Pelosi was cheered by fellow Democrats as she took her place to make the historic announcement.
An emotional Nancy Pelosi said her goodbyes in the chamber today EVELYN HOCKSTEIN
She called the House chamber "sacred ground" and the "heart of American democracy" and recalled visiting the Capitol for the first time as a child when her father was sworn in as a House member.
She said: "American democracy is majestic but it is fragile. Many of us here have witnessed our fragility firsthand, tragically in this chamber."
She added: "And so democracy must be forever defended from forces that wish it harm," alluding to the attack on the Capitol last year by former President Donald Trump's supporters.
"We the people - one country, one destiny," Pelosi added. Pelosi also noted the increase in the number of women serving in the House since she first joined it. She thanked her family and staff.
She added: "A new day is dawning on the horizon."
President Joe Biden said in a statement: "History will note Nancy Pelosi is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history.
"There are countless examples of how she embodies the obligation of elected officials to uphold their oath to God and country to ensure our democracy delivers and remains a beacon to the world."
Republicans were less glowing. Prominent Christian pro-life Republican John Block said: "Nancy Pelosi: You have disgraced the US House of Representatives and turned it into a partisan star chamber to attack your political enemies. Good riddance and you will not be missed."
Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York may now seek to take her place as the top Democrat in the House. Jeffries would be the first Black lawmaker to lead one of the major parties' caucuses in Congress.
Pelosi has played a central role in getting Democratic President Joe Biden's legislative agenda through Congress, as she did previously for Democratic President Barack Obama.
She helped pass Obama's signature 2010 healthcare law as well as major expansions of infrastructure and climate spending under Biden. She also presided over the House when it twice impeached Trump and has been a regular target of criticism from US conservatives.
Nancy Pelosi appeared to cry as the divisive figure, hated by many Republicans, finally left her role
The octogenarian has held her seat since winning a 1987 special election, has been under pressure during the past few years from younger House Democrats to yield power. She was the highest-ranking and most powerful elected woman in US history until Kamala Harris became vice president in January 2021. House speaker is second in the line of succession to the presidency.
Pelosi had previously said that the assault on her husband Paul by a politically motivated hammer-wielding intruder in their San Francisco home last month, was likely to influence her decision. House Democrats are set to vote for their new leaders on Nov. 30. Republicans are projected to win control of the House following last week's congressional elections, giving them a narrow majority in the chamber that will enable them to block Democratic President Joe Biden's legislative agenda.
Democrats retained control of the Senate. House Republicans have offered initial support for Kevin McCarthy to serve as speaker when the next Congress is sworn in on Jan 3.