House Democrats elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) as their next leader on Wednesday, beginning a new era of Democratic leadership as Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) steps down after nearly two decades at the helm.
Jeffries will be the first Black person to hold a congressional leadership position, and, at 52, will be the youngest leader in the new Congress when it begins in January.
House Democrats also selected Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) as minority whip and Rep. Peter Aguilar (D-Calif.) as Democratic caucus chair in the closed-door meeting on Wednesday; they replace Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and James Clyburn (R-S.C.) in the no. 2 and no. 3 positions.
Clyburn is running for assistant leader and faces a last-minute challenge from Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who announced on Wednesday he would also run for the position.
“It’s a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting 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,” Jeffries told reporters Tuesday on Capitol Hill.
Pelosi announced on November 17 she would retire as House Democratic leader to make way “for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus,” she said in a speech on the floor. Her decision to step down makes good on a promise she made in 2018 to retire from the top job in exchange for votes to be elected leader for a second time. Jeffries, who has served as chairman of the Democratic caucus since 2018, announced his bid to replace her a day after her resignation speech. He does not have any known challengers.
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Jeffries will have to build a working relationship with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) if McCarthy is successful in his bid to become House speaker next year. Jeffries said Sunday he has not “had a conversation with Leader McCarthy recently,” he told CNN State of the Union host Jake Tapper. “I do have, I think, a much warmer relationship with Steve Scalise,” Jeffries added. House Republicans selected Scalise (R-La.) as Republican leader, the no. 2 position, in a closed-door election earlier this month, shortly after they secured enough midterm victories to reclaim the majority in the House.
Cicilline, in announcing his bid to become assistant leader, cited the need for LGBTQ members on the Democratic leadership team, pointing to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney’s historic (D-NY) midterm loss. Maloney was the first Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair to lose a re-election bid in more than 40 years. “With so much at stake, I think it is critical that the House Democratic Leadership team fully reflect the diversity of our caucus and the American people by including an LGBTQ+ member at the leadership table, which is why I’ve decided to run for Assistant Leader,” Cicilline wrote in a letter to Democrats on Wednesday.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi Will Step Down After 2 Decades As Democratic House Leader (Forbes)
The Complicated Relationship Between Kevin McCarthy and Hakeem Jeffries (The Daily Beast)