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U.S. House Democrats elect Hakeem Jeffries as first Black party leader

World Nov 30, 2022 10:03PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks in favor of voting rights legislation during a Congressional Black Caucus press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., January 12, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

By Richard Cowan and Moira Warburton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Hakeem Jeffries was unanimously elected on Wednesday to become the Democratic Party's top leader in the U.S. House of Representatives beginning in January, making him the first Black American to hold such a high-ranking position 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 their 80s.

Jeffries, a 52-year-old New Yorker, will hold the position of House Democratic leader for the 118th Congress that convenes on Jan. 3.

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

Coming from Brooklyn means "you learn how to work with all kinds of different people. You learn how to stand your ground. You learn to not take things personally," Schumer said on Wednesday, adding that Jeffries "exemplifies all these traits."

The two leaders live just blocks apart in adjacent neighborhoods.

Jeffries formally announced his candidacy on Nov. 18, following a decade in the House, pledging to preside over a caucus that would return power to committee members and give junior lawmakers more say in shaping legislation and being rewarded with high-profile positions.

"Our commitment is always to extend the hand of partnership whenever and wherever possible, in order to get things done for everyday Americans," Jeffries said, when asked how he will work with Republicans.

Also elected as part of Jeffries' team are Representative Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts, who won the No. 2 Democratic job, a post known as "whip." Californian Pete Aguilar, 43, and a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, was elected to Jeffries' current job of Democratic caucus chairman.

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

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

The leadership change for Democrats comes as Republicans are set to take majority control - by a slim margin - of the House as a result of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Republicans and their leader Kevin McCarthy, who wants to become the next speaker, have put Democrats on notice that they will hit the ground running, launching investigations of administration officials and President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

While they made tackling inflation the centerpiece of their 2022 congressional campaigns, Republicans have since said little about that subject.

OCTOGENARIANS TAKE BACKSEATS

The three House Democratic leadership jobs 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 give way to a younger generation. The moment for that came after Republicans won the majority, but without the "red wave" of wins they had expected - a turn of events that buoyed Democrats.

Their agreements to step down meant a smooth transition of power. Outside the closed-door meeting on Wednesday, reporters could hear loud celebrations in the room.

"Hakeem Jeffries spent a fourth of his time praising the GOAT (greatest of all time), Nancy Pelosi," Representative Emanuel Cleaver told reporters afterward, referring to Jeffries' speech to his colleagues before the vote.

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

U.S. House Democrats elect Hakeem Jeffries as first Black party leader
 

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Comments (4)
Elezabeth Thomas
Elezabeth Thomas Nov 30, 2022 1:13PM ET
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crap!
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Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Nov 30, 2022 1:13PM ET
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JIM VETTER  I bet you often start your sentences with "I am not a racist but......."
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 1:13PM ET
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JIM VETTER  Why are you assuming I'm assuming she's saying that because he's black?  Maybe I'm assuming it's because he a man or because Hakeem is a Muslim name?    Maybe you are the racist.  Maybe Elezabeth should post a complete thought so there are less maybes.
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 1:13PM ET
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JIM VETTER   Why are you assuming I'm assuming she's saying that because he's black?  Maybe I'm assuming it's because he a man or because Hakeem is a Mus.lim name?    Maybe you are the racist.  Maybe Elezabeth should post a complete thought so there are less maybes.
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 1:13PM ET
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John Laurens   "Dude's a complete fascist freak. Everybody knows that." --  Prove that.  What have he done?
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 1:13PM ET
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Title of article contains "first Black party leader".  In the 1st sentence of this article is: "making him the first Black American to hold such a high-ranking position in Congress."
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 11:53AM ET
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Top Republican leadership jobs in the House & Senate will remain in the hands of white men older than Mr. Jeffries.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Nov 30, 2022 11:53AM ET
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Noo!! 😭😭😭Those are the most qualified people!!!! 😭😭😭 This guy isnt qualified at all!!!!!!! 😭😭😭 No, im not racist I just dont like lazy peope!!!! 🤡🤡🤡🤡🤡
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Nov 30, 2022 10:23AM ET
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"They also say they want deep cuts in spending after years of both parties paying little to no attention to rising budget deficits"  -- so after 40+ years of spending like drunken sailors, all of the sudden the republicans want to cut fed government spending, go figure
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 10:23AM ET
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lakes Tenn   A tax cut for the rich while increasing spending is having today's & tmrrw's children pay for today's spending, is increasing today's & tmrrw's wealth disparity.
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First Last Nov 30, 2022 10:23AM ET
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lakes Tenn   Not wrong.  Trump has been all about taking credit.  If there's nothing to take credit for, he'd make up a crisis just to stay in the news.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Nov 30, 2022 10:23AM ET
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lakes Tenn classic spend and spend MAGA commie plain and simple. Go live in the Soviet Union if you love it so much!
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Nov 30, 2022 10:23AM ET
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lakes Tenn  "I am sure 90% of people would say they were financially better off under trump than the potato head."  -- really?  you think al those people lost their jobs in 2020 think they are better off financially in 2020 than in 2016?  What you could say is after 8 straight years of economic growths and stock markets tripling, 90% of people were financially better off under Obama/Biden, but of course you won't........
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Nov 30, 2022 10:23AM ET
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lakes Tenn  "most people were still better off pre covid than during Obama as well......" oh so to make your Orange Messiah looks good, we don't count 2020 now are we?  that's so cute, that's like Bush Jr saying the economy was wonderful under my administration if you don't count 2008!
Stephen Fa
Stephen Fa Nov 30, 2022 6:53AM ET
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Reps from 3 of the most liberal, left wing states.
 
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