House Democrats elected Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York to be their leader in the lower chamber of Congress – the first new face to do so since Rep. Nancy Pelosi took the reins nearly two decades ago.
The lower chamber Democrats elected their new leadership on Wednesday. Jeffries ran unopposed to become the first black person to lead a political party in either the House or Senate, NBC News reported.
His leadership was thought to have been partially clinched in September after a secret meeting where House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn assured Jeffries he wouldn’t vie for the top spot and potentially split the vote between them, POLITICO reported.
“This is a moment of transition,” Jeffries told reporters Tuesday night. “We stand on the shoulders of giants, but are also looking forward to being able to do what’s necessary at this moment to advance the issues.”
Jeffries is set to be the minority leader in a Republican-led House of Representatives when the 118th Congress convenes in January. Pelosi, the current Speaker of the House, announced two weeks ago that she would not seek election as minority leader.
Jeffries, 52, has represented his New York City district since 2013. Reuters reported that he played a leading role in the First Step Act of 2018, aimed at prison reform, and was one of seven Democrat “impeachment managers” in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump.
The New York Times directly compared Jeffries and his predecessor, Pelosi. His legislative record is comparatively thin, and his middle-class background contrasts with Pelosi, whose father was a congressman and mayor. But both are respected by Democrats as competent, disciplined and willing to defy the party’s left wing.
Jeffries has put distance between himself and colleagues to his left, as reported by the New York Post. He told the Atlantic in 2021 that “there will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.”
In the same comment, he summarized his views on his career so far and into the future.
“I’m a Black progressive Democrat concerned with addressing racial and social and economic injustice with the fierce urgency of now,” he said. “That’s been my career, that’s been my journey, and it will continue to be as I move forward for however long I have an opportunity to serve.”
This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available.