The story behind Nancy Pelosi’s ultimate power accessory: the mace brooch

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) address reporters during Pelosi's weekly news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 2, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Speaker Nancy Pelosi wore a mace brooch during Wednesday's appearance with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff. (Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Nancy Pelosi didn’t just rock a power suit for her headline-making press conference on Wednesday, during which she and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff vowed to act swiftly but “deliberately” with a House impeachment inquiry into President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine. She also broke out a power accessory.

Pelosi's brooch symbolizes her authority as Speaker of the House. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)
Pelosi's brooch symbolizes her authority as Speaker of the House. (Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty)

Eagle-eyed viewers of the conference couldn’t help but notice the gold ceremonial mace brooch on the left lapel of her turquoise suit jacket. As the speaker of the House’s own daughter, Christine Pelosi, shared on Twitter, the ornament represents the Speaker’s mace, also known as the Mace of the Republic or Mace of the United States House of Representatives.

Inspired by the ancient weapon — typically a long, blunt staff with a large head used in battle — the mace has been used as a symbol of the House’s legislative authority since 1789. Currently, a ceremonial mace of silver and ebony is carried in a procession by the sergeant-at-arms as the speaker is led in for daily sessions of the House. Its position — on a pedestal near the speaker in session, lowered and more obscured otherwise — is also used to note if House is in session or committee.

Historically, there are a handful of instances in which “presenting the mace” was a method to restore order in the House amid unruly behavior. The most recent instance was in 1994 when then-Speaker Pro Tem Carrie Meek threatened to present the mace to stop Rep. Maxine Waters from continuing to speak; Waters left the floor before the mace was actually brought out.

It’s a symbol imbued with authority and symbolic of order and power — just the sort of thing one might wear, say, to take the president to task.

“He is stooping to a level that is beneath the dignity of the Constitution,” Pelosi said of Trump during the Wednesday morning’s conference. "[I] never thought we would have a president who would kick those guardrails over ... and say I can do whatever I feel like. This is sad.”

She also accused Trump of “undermining our national security, undermining his oath of office to defend and protect the Constitution [and] undermining the integrity of our elections.” Her comments, along with her remarks on domestic issues like gun control and the USMCA trade deal, prompted a tweetstorm from the president.

If Pelosi’s statement speaker accessory looks familiar, it’s because she also wore it — alongside a white suit — to the State of the Union in February, during which she famously expressed defiant body language as Trump spoke.

Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) listen as U.S. President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Pelosi wore the mace brooch to the State of the Union on Feb. 5. (Photo: REUTERS/Leah Millis)

So is it just a brooch, or modern-day, authority-asserting armor for the latest political battles? Either way, trust this: When Pelosi wears that mace, she means business.

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