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Jonathan Bernstein

Nancy Pelosi Is the Greatest Speaker in History

The first woman in the role, the long-serving Democrat is a genius of process and people.

A historic tenure.

A historic tenure.

Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Nancy Pelosi has been simply the best speaker of the House of the modern era. She is probably the best speaker in US history. It was time for her to step down from her leadership role, but it likely will be a long time before we see someone of either party master the job as well as she did.

Her four terms as speaker, two during unified Democratic government and two under Republican presidents and divided government, were unusually productive. During President Barack Obama’s first term, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, she steered the Affordable Care Act into law. When her party operated with a fragile majority over the last two years, she somehow again found ways to pass liberal priorities, sometimes on party-line votes and sometimes with bipartisan support.