The Democrats elected Hakeem Jeffries, New York congressman, as their new leader. His election makes him the first Black American to lead a major political party in Congress second to Nancy Pelosi, who is its current speaker. She announced she was going to be stepping aside to make way for the new leader.
Jeffries, 52, will assume the role of minority leader when the new Congress is sworn in early next year. He will be inheriting the position held for nearly 20 years by Pelosi, a prominent figure in Democratic politics who was the first woman speaker.
After the closed-door meeting, Jeffries declared: “House Democrats fight for the people. That’s our story. That’s our legacy. That’s our values. That’s our commitment.”
The top three leaders that emerged led by Jeffries will include the Massachusetts congresswoman Katherine Clark, 59, as whip and Pete Aguilar of California, 43, as caucus chair, in charge of messaging. They will succeed three octogenarians: Pelosi and her deputies, Steny Hoyer of Maryland (majority leader) and James Clyburn, the whip from South Carolina.
“Today is a day of transition, hope, and renewal of the shared values of our caucus,” Clark told reporters. Commending the Democratic caucus as a “beautiful mosaic of the country”, Aguilar acknowledged the significance of being a Latino in a leadership role.
“Having an opportunity to help guide this caucus is a great responsibility and I don’t take it lightly,” he said.
The process of their emergence was smooth which was in stark contrast to the fractured House Republican conference, which failed to unite around Kevin McCarthy. McCarthy is attempting to shore up enough support to become speaker with the meagre votes left.
The Republicans’ narrow margin, and McCarthy’s shaky hold on his caucus, are likely to give Democrats some leverage in negotiations, particularly when it comes to must-pass legislation. Vowing to “get stuff done”, Jeffries said his caucus would look for opportunities to work with Republicans but would “push back against extremism whenever necessary”.
Shortly before Thanksgiving, Pelosi, who has led Democrats since 2003, announced that she intended to pass the torch and would support Jeffries, another barrier-breaking leader.
Jeffries is a former lawyer who represents a diverse district in Brooklyn and Queens once represented by Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to serve in Congress. He is known on Capitol Hill as a disciplined tactician with a measured style and a penchant for pop culture references.
Jeffries traced his ascent from the Brooklyn hospital where he was born, the son of a caseworker and a social worker. Moved by what he described as a desire to “advance the ball for everyday Americans”, his first victory in an election came at the New York state assembly, where he sat for six years.
Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said: “With this new generation of leadership, House Democrats are well positioned to enter the 118th Congress and confront the challenges ahead.”
Jayapal also noted that House Democrats’ top three leaders would be entirely “women or people of colour” for the first time.
Hoyer called Jeffries “a skilled consensus-builder, effective legislator, and experienced leader … well equipped to … deliver further results for the people during the 118th Congress and retake the majority in 2024.”
Though Pelosi will remain in Congress, she promised not to be the “mother-in-law in the kitchen”. Asked if the continued presence of Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn might be a burden, Jeffries said the new leaders felt honoured to “stand on their shoulders”.
“It’s a blessing that we embrace,” he said.
SUPPORT NIGERIAN CANADIAN NEWS
If you like our work and want to keep enjoying what we offer, kindly support us by donating to the Nigerian Canadian News through the button below
Share your thoughts in the comments section below
Do you want to share any news or information with us? If yes, contact the publisher at email@example.com