Nancy Pelosi promised as speaker she would “show the power of the gavel”. This year, she laid it out for all to see.
The past week alone, the Democratic leader delivered a $1.4tn government funding package to stop a shutdown, pushed through the bipartisan US-Mexico-Canada trade agreement, and passed her party’s plan to lower prescription drug costs. In between, she led a congressional delegation to Europe for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.
And on Wednesday, she impeached the president.
As the first year of Pelosi’s second stint as speaker draws to a close – she is the only woman to hold the office, and the first speaker in 60 years to reclaim the gavel after losing it – the California Democrat took stock of whether she fulfilled her campaign trail promise.
“Donald Trump thinks so,” Pelosi told the Associated Press during an interview Thursday at her office in the Capitol.
“He just got impeached. He’ll be impeached for ever. No matter what the Senate does. He’s impeached for ever because he violated our constitution,” she said.
“If I did nothing else, he saw the power of the gavel there,” Pelosi told the AP. “And it wasn’t me, it was all of our members making their own decision.”
Not since an earlier era of leaders – like Sam Rayburn, whose name is on a building at the Capitol, or Newt Gingrich, who defined a political movement – has the House speaker wielded such influence.
“She has governed with force and authority,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public policy at Princeton.
Zelizer said Pelosi has accomplished with Trump what others have not, which is to build a coalition strong enough to hold the president accountable, through impeachment, while also muscling through big bills. This, on top of what she did during her first term in the office.
“She is likely to go down in history as one of the most effective speakers,” he said.
Donald Trump, meanwhile, escaped the chill of Washington and his impeachment on Friday to celebrate Christmas and New Year’s in sunny Florida with family and friends.
One thing he isn’t celebrating is the delay in his Senate impeachment trial. It’s got him “mad as hell”, according to one ally.
The Senate adjourned until January with the Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leader Chuck Schumer unable to agree on trial procedure. Pelosi has said she wants to know how the trial will be handled before she sends two House-passed articles of impeachment against Trump to the Senate.
Trump, who was due to arrive at his private Palm Beach resort late Friday, has been looking forward to a trial in the friendlier Republican-controlled Senate and is riled up about the delay, according to Senator Lindsey Graham.
“He’s mad as hell that they would do this to him and now deny him his day in court,” Graham told Fox News Channel after meeting with Trump at the White House on Thursday night.
McConnell has all but promised an easy acquittal of the president. He appears to have united Republicans behind an approach that would begin the trial with presentations and arguments, lasting perhaps two weeks, before he tries drawing the proceedings to a close. The Senate will reconvene 3 January.