1. A Critical Role
Ms. Pelosi is the first woman in US history to lead the House of Representatives and she’s played a critical role in advancing – or thwarting – the agendas of multiple presidents.
Her legislative acumen, her ability to keep a restless party united when it matters, and her instinct for political theatre has made her a force on Capitol Hill, as well as a lightning rod for criticism from her detractors.
Ms. Pelosi directly challenged Donald Trump throughout his presidency – famously ripping up a copy of his State of the Union address behind his back.
And Trump responded in kind, often making her a target of his ire and accusing her of carrying out a ‘radical leftist agenda’.
During the January 6 insurrection, President Trump’s supporters marauded through the Capitol in search of the Speaker and were photographed trashing her office and placing their feet on her desk.
2. Raised in a political family
Republicans have typically painted Ms. Pelosi as a ‘San Francisco liberal’ enamored with big government and far to the left on social issues.
But her roots are from a more practical style of politics on the other side of the continent.
She grew up in a political family, the youngest of seven children in the gritty East Coast city of Baltimore, Maryland, where her father was mayor.
She went to college in nearby Washington, where she met and eventually married financier Paul Pelosi.
They first moved to Manhattan, and then San Francisco, where Ms. Pelosi started as a housewife.
She had five children – four daughters and a son – in the space of six years.
3. The start of something big
In 1976 she became involved in politics, using her old family connections to help California Governor Jerry Brown win the Maryland primary as he ran for president.
She then rose through the ranks of the state’s Democratic Party, eventually becoming its chair and then winning a seat in Congress in 1988.
In 2001, she ran for House minority whip – her party’s vote counter and second-in-command in the House of Representatives – and won a narrow victory.
The next year she moved up to minority leader, the title held by the person leading the opposition in the House.
4. Reachingon the top
Ms. Pelosi was one of the highest-profile, most outspoken opponents of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
This stand was vindicated and paid dividends in 2006 when the Democrats took control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
She was elected by her party to be Speaker of the House, becoming the first woman in that role in US history.
Four years later, Democrats lost control of the lower chamber of Congress.
Despite the setback, Ms. Pelosi defeated several challenges within her own ranks, to take the gavel once more at the helm of a resurgent party in 2018.
5. What does a speaker do?
Speaker of the House is the one congressional job detailed in the US Constitution. After the vice president, it is next in line.
Its massive office, in the Capitol rotunda, reflects the prestige of the job, with its own balcony looking out toward the Washington Monument.
The majority party in the House has virtually unfettered control over the legislative process.
The speaker and her deputies and committee chairs determine what bills are considered and voted on. They set the agenda and decide the rules governing debate.
If a speaker can keep her majority in line, the legislative process in the House can purr like a well-tuned machine.
6. Pelosi’s biggest moment
Ms. Pelosi faced very different circumstances when she returned to the speaker’s chair in 2018.
By then she was a lightning rod for Republican anger – in their eyes, representing the coastal elites pushing a big-spending, radical platform.
During the 2018 mid-terms campaign, Republican incumbent David Brat mentioned Nancy Pelosi and her “liberal agenda” 21 times in one debate.
The move backfired for him – and his party – as Democrats swept to a historic win in the House.
But this time she had President Donald Trump as well as the wily Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as obstacles. So any bills her party got through the House didn’t go any further.
In viral terms, her big moment was her sarcastic #PelosiClap during Mr. Trump’s State of the Union speech a month after she took office. It still lives on as a popular gif.
Most controversially, 12 months later she ripped up Mr. Trump’s speech in front of the TV cameras. Accused of disrespect, she later defended the move, calling his words a “manifesto of mistruths”.
7. A hollow victory
Expectations were high for Democrats to increase their House majority in 2020. But they ended up losing members of Congress instead – more than a dozen net losses.
Given the presence of Donald Trump on the ticket to rally Republicans, it was always optimistic for them to expect to improve on their 2018 landslide.
But the setback made things harder during the first two years of Mr. Biden’s presidential term, as her slim majority dwindled down to just a handful of seats.
The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher says despite the razor-thin margins, she has been able to shepherd much of the president’s legislative agenda through her chamber.
In less than two years, Democrats in the House have passed a Covid relief bill, a bipartisan infrastructure spending package, a multi-trillion-dollar environment and social spending program, and legislation protecting gay marriage. That she was able to pull this off when losing more than a vote or two would have meant failure, is a testament to her ability to keep her party’s liberal and centrist members in the fold.
Although there has been criticism of her Taiwan trip as rash or dangerous, others – including more than a few domestic political opponents – have heralded it as a bold move.
If nothing else, it could be one final demonstration that Nancy Pelosi does what she wants, when she wants.