Washington – House Democrats elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York as their next party leader in a unanimous vote on Wednesday, ushering in a generational shift as Democrats prepare to relinquish control of the lower house in January.
Long considered a rising star in the party, Jeffries, 52, will go down in history as the first black party leader in either house of Congress. He takes the reins from Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who has been the House Democratic leader since 2003. Pelosi, 82,earlier this month that she would not seek another leadership position, but would remain in the House.
Wednesday’s election means Jeffries will become Minority Leader when the new Congress convenes Jan. 3. Republicans will hold a narrow majority in the House for the first time since 2019, while Democrats will retain control of the Senate in the midterm elections.
Jeffries, whose district encompasses large parts of his native Brooklyn, was first elected to Congress in 2012 and has steadily risen through the party ranks, eventually becoming Democratic caucus chairman in 2019. He has served in the Assembly of New York State before his election, and was a corporate lawyer before launching his political career, with stints as in-house counsel at Viacom and CBS.
Speaking in the Senate ahead of the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called Jeffries’ election “a watershed moment in the history of the United States Congress.”
“It’s no surprise House Democrats are looking to someone from Brooklyn to lead the way next year, because when you come from Brooklyn, you quickly learn traits like perseverance and seriousness. C “It’s a crowded, diverse place. You learn how to work with all kinds of different people. You learn how to hold your own. You learn not to take things personally,” said Schumer, a fellow Brooklynite. “Hakeem Jeffries exemplifies all these features.”
Serving alongside Jeffries will be Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who was elected the Democratic whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who was chosen as caucus chair. All three showed up unopposed.
Like Pelosi, current Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland has declined to seek another leadership position, while Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, the current whip, plans to seek a new role as leader. deputy Democrat in an election Thursday. Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island said in a letter to colleagues that he would challenge Clyburn for the position, citing a need for LGBTQ representation in the leadership.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Jeffries said the new leadership team recognizes the “solemn responsibility we all inherit, and the best thing we can do because of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment, is to lean hard and to do the best job we can do for people.”
“We are a coalition of people with different life experiences, ideologies, and backgrounds. But at the end of the day, we are always committed to finding the greatest common denominator in order to do great things. For ordinary Americans. I am convinced that we can continue to do so,” he said.
Jeffries also offered insight into his relationship with GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, the Republican presidential nominee.
“I think I’ve been nice enough to Kevin McCarthy over the years, to tell you the truth. I just respond to things he said or did that I found outrageous, like calling the members on our side of the aisle as extreme when he has an amazing group of members across the aisle who fall into that category,” Jeffries said. “Moving forward, I hope House Democrats can find common ground with Republicans to get things done that would improve the lives of ordinary Americans wherever possible. But we’re also ready. to oppose their extremism when we must.”
Rebecca Kaplan and Jack Turman contributed reporting.