Jeffries Set to Lead House Democrats 11/30 06:29
Emboldened House Democrats are poised to usher in a new generation of
leaders with 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.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Emboldened House Democrats are poised to usher in a new
generation of leaders with 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 52-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
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 Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the
Democratic whip and 43-year-old 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 Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., 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 Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., 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
Clyburn, now the highest-ranking Black American in Congress, will seek to
become the assistant democratic leader, helping the new generation to
The election for Clyburn's post and several others are expected to be held
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
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