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House Democrats Select Hakeem Jeffries as Congress’ First Black Minority Leader

© Hakeem JeffriesUS Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY)
US Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) - Sputnik International, 1920, 30.11.2022
House Democrats on Wednesday voted to make Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) their leader in the US House of Representatives, making him the first Black person to hold the position. The decision comes after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the first woman to hold the role, stepped back from it after 20 years.
Jeffries, 52, a political moderate from Brooklyn, has been in the House since 2013 and been part of Pelosi’s inner leadership circle since 2019, when he was chosen to chair the House Democratic Caucus. He has long been seen as a major contender to replace either Pelosi, who is 82, or the 83-year-old Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), the former majority leader. Both announced earlier this month they would step back from leadership after Democrats narrowly lost the House to the Republicans in the midterm elections.

The internal party vote on Wednesday also saw Democrats choose 59-year-old Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) as Democratic Whip, replacing 82-year-old Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), and 43-year-old Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA) take Jeffries’ old role as caucus chair.

The ease of the Democratic leadership transition is sharply contrasted by the bitter struggle faced by Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) for House speaker. The former minority leader has attempted to face down an internal rebellion by a handful of GOP lawmakers critical of his leadership and who are capable of throwing the vote because of the extremely narrow 9-seat majority the GOP holds.
“If we don’t do this right, the Democrats can take the majority. If we play games on the floor, the Democrats can end up picking who the speaker is,” McCarthy told Newsmax earlier this week.
The House votes for the new speaker on January 3, after the new crop of lawmakers who were elected in November are sworn in and the departing lawmakers have officially left office.
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