House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Sunday that she has remained atop her caucus primarily to defend the Affordable Care Act from attempts by President Trump and congressional Republican to repeal the 2010 health law.

Pelosi deflected calls from more junior Democrats that the time had come for her and the other senior Democrats to step aside for a new generation of party leaders, saying she needed to remain in office as long as the ACA was under assault.

“I saw the threat to it, I said: I’ve got to stay, to take care of the Affordable Care Act, and that’s my fight, that’s my mission,” Pelosi said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Pelosi, 77, has been the Democratic leader for almost 15 years, four as House speaker and the rest as minority leader, with Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, 78, as the No. 2 Democratic leader for that entire span. Rep. James E. Clyburn, 77, has been in the No. 3 leadership post for Democrats since 2006.

Pelosi’s standing came into question after the 2016 elections left Democrats deeper in the minority than she had been publicly predicting, prompting a leadership challenge that she beat back with a two-thirds majority in the secret ballot. But a junior member of Pelosi’s leadership team suggested earlier this month that the trio of 70-somethings atop the caucus needs to move on, sooner rather than later.

On Oct. 15, members of both parties had sharp words on the executive order on health-care President Trump signed on Oct. 13 and called for Congressional action. (Meg Kelly/The Washington Post)

“I do think it’s time to pass a torch to a new generation of leaders, and I want to be a part of that transition,” Rep. Linda T. Sánchez (D-Calif.) said on C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers” in an interview conducted by reporters with The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times. “I want to see that happen.”

Responding to Sánchez’s comments Sunday, Pelosi made clear that defending the Obama-era health-care law — which many Democrats give her the most credit in getting passed — was her primary goal. This could suggest that once she feels the law’s future is intact, Pelosi would step aside.

After Republican failures to repeal the law over the summer, GOP leaders are divided over their next steps. Trump has issued an order to stop making payments to shore up the private insurance markets under the ACA. Meanwhile, in the Senate, bipartisan negotiations continue on how make modest changes to the law and ensure those payments continue to the insurance providers.

Pelosi said the other main reason for not retiring was “to have women at the leadership table.”

She acknowledged that, in the face of some criticism, she has started to promote her strengths in a more public fashion. “I think I’m a great legislator,” Pelosi said, adding, “Self-promotion is a terrible thing, but clearly somebody has to do it.”