Next generation: Hakeem Jeffries set to lead House Democrats
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. Image via AP.

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It's part of a complete change in House Democratic leadership after losing a majority.

Emboldened House Democrats are poised to usher in a new generation of leaders with U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becoming the first Black American to head a major political party in Congress as long-serving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside.

Showing rare party unity after their midterm election losses, the House Democrats are expected to move seamlessly Wednesday from one history-making leader to another, uniting around the 57-year-old New Yorker, who has vowed to “get things done,” even after Republicans won control of the chamber.

“It’s a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting,” Jeffries told reporters on the eve of Wednesday’s vote. “And the best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment 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 are being held behind closed doors, and Jeffries and the other top leaders are expected to win by acclamation, without challengers.

The trio led by Jeffries, who is poised to become the Democratic minority leader, includes 59-year-old U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the Democratic whip and 43-year-old U.S. Rep. 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.”

“It an important moment for the caucus — that there’s a new generation of leadership,” said U.S> Rep. Chris Pappas, a New Hampshire Democrat, ahead of voting.

While Democrats will be relegated to the House minority in the new year, they will have a certain amount of leverage because the Republican majority is expected to be so slim and McCarthy’s hold on his party fragile.

The House’s two new potential leaders, Jeffries and McCarthy, are of the same generation but have almost no real relationship to speak of — in fact the Democrat is known for leveling political barbs at the Republican from afar, particularly over the GOP’s embrace of former President Donald Trump. Jeffries served as a House manager during Trump’s first impeachment.

“We’re still working through the implications of Trumpism,” Jeffries said, “and what it has meant, as a very destabilizing force for American democracy.”

Jeffries said he hopes to find “common ground when possible” with Republicans but will “oppose their extremism when we must.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Jeffries will have a partner in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as two New Yorkers are poised to helm the Democratic leadership in Congress. They live about a mile (1.6 kilometers) apart in Brooklyn.

“There are going to be a group, in my judgment, of mainstream Republicans who are not going to want to go in the MAGA direction, and Hakeem’s the ideal type guy to work with them,” Schumer said in an interview, referencing Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan.

Jeffries has sometimes been met with skepticism from party progressives, viewed as a more centrist figure among House Democrats.

But U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, a progressive and part of the “squad” of liberal lawmakers, said she has been heartened by the way Jeffries and his team are reaching out, even though they face no challengers.

“There’s a genuine sense that he wants to develop relationships and working partnerships with many of us,” she said.

Clark, who is seeking the No. 2 spot, is expected to speak to her colleagues Wednesday about the importance of being a unified party, as the Democrats transition to the minority, and confront the Republicans.

She is seen as a coalition builder on the leadership team, while Aguilar, in the No. 3 spot, is known as a behind-the-scenes conduit to centrists and even Republicans.

Clyburn, now the highest-ranking Black American in Congress, will seek to become the assistant democratic leader, helping the new generation to transition.

The election for Clyburn’s post and several others are expected to be held Thursday.

Jeffries’ ascent comes as a milestone for Black Americans, the Capitol built with the labor of enslaved people and its dome later expanded during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency as a symbol the nation would stand during the Civil War.

“The thing about Pete, Katherine and myself is that we embrace what the House represents,” Jeffries said, calling it “the institution closest to the people.”

While the House Democrats are often a big, diverse, “noisy family,” he said, “it’s a good thing. At the end of the day, we’re always committed to finding the highest common denominator in order to get big things done for everyday Americans.”

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Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Associated Press


5 comments

  • Tom

    November 30, 2022 at 7:17 am

    Total extremist, leader of no man or women!
    Speaks like he’s reading children books.
    Total canard.

    • Joe Corsin

      November 30, 2022 at 7:51 am

      Without treatment for mental and intellectual disability, you’re not competent enough to vote.

    • marylou

      December 1, 2022 at 12:10 pm

      No, Tom, Jeffries is not extremist anything, unless you count corporate-ness. He supports many policies that if made into law would be good for America, so he must be given a chance.

      After hearing Desanctimonious, I am surprised that you would comment on anyone else’s speaking abilities.

  • Yrral

    November 30, 2022 at 7:45 am

    The first shall be last,and the last shall be first, depends on who you are in America

  • Republicans are corrupt

    November 30, 2022 at 7:47 am

    The stark difference between democrats, and Republicans is that Democrats are graceful, and they do what they’re supposed to do for the people and work together: the contrary, the Republicans are more focused on making noise as opposed to working for the people. Hence why they are such a cluster fu**!!!

Comments are closed.


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