US House Democrats elect Hakeem Jeffries as first black party leader

WASHINGTON, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Hakeem Jeffries was unanimously elected on Wednesday to become the leader of the Democratic Party in the U.S. House of Representatives from January, making him the first black American to hold office. as high in Congress.

The vote by Jeffries’ fellow Democrats also marked the rise of a younger generation of leaders in the 435-member House, and the end of the Nancy Pelosi era and control by other Democrats in the 1980s.

Jeffries, a 52-year-old New Yorker, will serve as House Democratic leader for the 118th Congress, which meets on January 3.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was not surprised Jeffries, a fellow Brooklynite, was chosen.

Coming from Brooklyn means “you learn to work with all kinds of different people. You learn to hold your own. You learn not to take things personally,” Schumer said Wednesday, adding that Jeffries “exemplifies all of those traits.”

The two leaders live within blocks of each other in adjacent neighborhoods.

Jeffries formally announced his candidacy Nov. 18, after a decade in the House, pledging to chair a caucus that would return power to committee members and give junior lawmakers more say in crafting legislation and be rewarded by high-level positions.

“Our commitment is always to reach out to the partnership whenever possible, to get things done for ordinary Americans,” Jeffries said, when asked how he would work with Republicans.

Rep. Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts, who won Democratic No. 2, a position known as the “whip,” was also elected to Jeffries’ team. Californian Pete Aguilar, 43, and member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was elected to the current position of Jeffries’ Democratic caucus chairman.

Their elections mean that for the first time in either party, the top three party roles are filled by women or people of color.

“Together, this new generation of leaders reflects the vibrancy and diversity of our great nation – and they will invigorate our caucus with their new energy, ideas and perspective,” Pelosi said in a statement congratulating the trio.

The change in leadership for Democrats comes as Republicans are poised to take majority control – by a narrow margin – of the House following the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Republicans and their leader Kevin McCarthy, who wants to become the next speaker, have warned Democrats they will be on the march, launching investigations into administration officials and President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

While making the fight against inflation the centerpiece of their 2022 congressional campaigns, Republicans have recently spoken on the subject.

OCTOGENARIANS SIT BACK

The three Democratic leadership positions in the House have been held for two decades by Pelosi, 82, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and Majority Whip James Clyburn, 82.

They have been under pressure for years to make way for a younger generation. The time for that came after Republicans won a majority, but without the “red wave” of victories they expected – a turn of events that supported the Democrats.

Their resignation agreements meant a smooth transition of power. Outside of Wednesday’s closed meeting, reporters could hear loud celebrations in the room.

“Hakeem Jeffries spent a quarter of his time praising the GOAT (greatest of all time), Nancy Pelosi,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver told reporters afterward, referencing Jeffries’ speech to his colleagues before. the vote.

Cleaver, an ordained minister, said caucus members “were on their feet, church-like” to celebrate the election of Jeffries, “who I call the juggernaut of hip-hop.” Jeffries is known to be a fan of the musical genre and hosts an annual “Hip Hop on the Hill” fundraising event.

Reporting by Moira Warburton and Richard Cowan; Editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell and Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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