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Former House Speaker John Boehner tears up at Pelosi portrait unveiling

The Ohio Republican succeeded Pelosi in 2011 after her first stint as House speaker.

Former House Speaker John Boehner paid a tearful tribute to Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday at the unveiling of her official portrait in the U.S. Capitol.

Boehner, R-Ohio, who had a reputation for frequently tearing up when he was speaker, offered warm words for Pelosi, D-Calif., the outgoing speaker, who has often been demonized by GOP lawmakers.

"You’ve been incredibly effective as the leader of your caucus. The younger generation today has a saying: 'Game recognizes game.' The fact of the matter is no other speaker of the House in the modern era — Republican or Democrat — has wielded the gavel with such authority or with such consistent results," Boehner said, calling Pelosi "one tough cookie."

"My girls told me, 'Tell the speaker how much we admire her,'" Boehner said, choking back tears as he spoke. "As if you couldn't tell, my girls are Democrats," he said to laughs at the ceremony in the Capitol.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., greets former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, during a portrait unveiling ceremony for Pelosi in the U.S. Capitols Statuary Hall on Dec. 14, 2022.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., greets former Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday at a portrait unveiling ceremony for Pelosi in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall.Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Pelosi, who in 2007 became the first female speaker of the House, had joked about Boehner’s penchant for tears when she spoke at his portrait ceremony in 2019.

“I was just trying to think of occasions when I saw John crying. And then I was thinking of occasions when I didn’t see John crying,” she quipped before she praised him as a “formidable spokesman for his party and for his cause” and someone who “sought common ground when he could and held his ground when he could not.”

Pelosi said Wednesday that she was "honored" by his presence and joked, “I would have been a little disappointed if he did not get emotional.”

Boehner's and Pelosi's portraits were painted by the same artist, Ronald Sherr, who Boehner said died just a week ago.

Others at Wednesday’s event included Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Lucille Roybal-Allard, both D-Calif. Former President Barack Obama sent a video message.

Pelosi was accompanied Wednesday by family members, including her husband, Paul Pelosi, who was attacked in their home in October by a man who authorities allege said he was searching for the speaker. Pelosi thanked her husband for being her “loving partner of life, my constant, constant pillar of support.”

Pelosi announced last month that she was stepping down from her leadership post after Republicans won the majority in the November midterm elections. She will be succeeded by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the first Black lawmaker to lead a congressional caucus.