With Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becoming the first Black American to lead a major political party in Congress on Wednesday, encouraged House Democrats welcomed a new generation of leaders as longtime Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her staff prepares to retire the following year.
The 52-year-old New Yorker, who has vowed to “get things done” even after Republicans won control of the chamber, was chosen by the House Democrats, who have shown uncommon party unity despite their midterm election defeats.
The vote was unanimously approved behind closed doors.
On the eve of the party gathering, Jeffries told reporters, “It’s a solemn duty that we are all inheriting. And given the gravity and solemnity of the situation, “the greatest thing we can do is lean in hard and do the best darn job we can for the people.”
In stark contrast to the turmoil among Republicans, who are attempting to merge around GOP leader Kevin McCarthy as the new House speaker as they get ready to seize control when the new Congress convenes in January, it’s unusual for a party that lost the midterm elections to so quickly rebound.
Jeffries and the other three Democratic caucus leaders were unopposed in their votes on Wednesday.
Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who is 59 years old, serves as the Democratic whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who is 43 years old, serves as the caucus chairman in the group led by Jeffries, who will be the Democratic minority leader in the incoming Congress.
To make room for the next generation, Pelosi and her senior lieutenants, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, anticipated to step down from their positions and be replaced by the new group of Democratic leaders.
But in many ways, as one of Pelosi’s aides put it, the trio has been transitioning in plain sight.
Jeffries, Clark, and Aguilar have worked under her direction for the past few years in lower-level leadership positions as the first woman to be getting ready to hand over the speaker’s gavel.
Since she has been the leader of the House Democrats for the past 20 years, Pelosi, a Californian, has received the honorific title of “speaker emerita” from her colleagues.
Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., said before the vote, “it’s a significant moment for the caucus — that there’s a new generation of leadership.”
Democrats will be in the House minority in the coming year, but they will still have some clout because of the Republican majority’s anticipated fragility and McCarthy’s tenuous grasp on his party.
Although Jeffries and McCarthy, the two new potential leaders of the House, are of the same generation, they hardly have any personal ties.
The Democrat is well-known for hurling political jabs at the Republicans from a distance, particularly about the GOP’s embrace of the late President Donald Trump. During Trump’s initial impeachment, Jeffries worked as the House manager.