Jeffries wins historic bid to lead House Democrats after Pelosi
Jose Luis Magana Representative Hakeem Jeffries (centre), joined by Representative Pete Aguilar and Representative Katherine Clark, speaks to reporters just after they were elected by House Democrats to form the new leadership when Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi steps aside.
House Democrats ushered in a new generation of leaders on Wednesday with Representative Hakeem Jeffries elected to be the first black American to head a major political party in Congress at a pivotal time, as long-serving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside next year.
Showing rare party unity after their midterm election losses, the House Democrats moved seamlessly from one history-making leader to another, choosing the 52-year-old New Yorker, who vowed to “get things done” in the new Congress, even after Republicans won control of the chamber. The closed-door vote was unanimous, by acclamation.
“We stand on their collective broad shoulders,” Jeffries said afterward of Pelosi and her team.
“The best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment,” he had said earlier, “is lean in hard and do the best damn job that we can for the people.”
It’s rare that a party that lost the midterm elections would so easily regroup, and stands in stark contrast with the upheaval among Republicans, who are struggling to unite around GOP leader Kevin McCarthy as the new House Speaker as they prepare to take control when the new Congress convenes in January.
Wednesday’s internal Democratic caucus votes of Jeffries and the other top leaders came without challenges. Cheers broke out in the private meeting where, typically, contested party elections unfolded instead like church service, a call-and-response affirming Democrats’ confidence in their choices, some in the room said.
The trio led by Jeffries, who will become the Democratic minority leader in the new Congress, includes 59-year-old Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the Democratic whip and 43-year-old Representative Pete Aguilar of California as caucus chairman. The new team of Democratic leaders is expected to slide into the slots held by Pelosi and her top lieutenants — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina — as the 80-something leaders make way for the next generation.
But in many ways, the trio has been transitioning in plain sight, as one aide put it — Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar working with Pelosi’s nod these past several years in lower-rung leadership roles as the first woman to have the Speaker’s gavel prepared to step down. Pelosi, of California, has led the House Democrats for the past 20 years, and colleagues late Tuesday granted her the honorific title of ‘Speaker Emerita’.