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Hakeem Jeffries has been elected to lead the next generation of House Democrats

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Emboldened House Democrats ushered in a new generation of leaders Wednesday with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected the first black American to lead a major political party in Congress. year

In a rare display of party unity after their midterm election defeat, House Democrats seamlessly transitioned from one history-making leader to another, electing the 52-year-old New Yorker who vowed to “get things done” even after Republicans gained control of the camera. The vote behind closed doors was unanimous, by acclamation.

“This is a solemn responsibility that we all inherit,” Jeffries told reporters ahead of the caucus. “And the best thing we can do in the gravity and solemnity of the moment is to go all out and do the best job we can do for people.”
Rarely has a party that lost a midterm election regrouped so easily and is in stark contrast to the upheaval among Republicans who are struggling to rally around GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy as the new House speaker as they prepare to take control when the new Congress convenes in January.

The vote for Jeffries and other top leaders on Wednesday came without challengers.

The trio, led by Jeffries, who will be the Democratic minority leader in the new Congress, includes Rep. Kathryn Clark, 59, of Massachusetts, as a member of the Democratic Party, and Rep. Pete Aguilar, 43, of California, as the caucus chairman. A new team of Democratic leaders is expected to fill the seats held by Pelosi and her top deputies — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina — as the 80-something leaders give way to the next generation.

But in many ways, the trio has been changing in plain sight, one aide said: Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar have spent the past few years working alongside Pelosi in lower-level leadership positions as the first woman to be given the speaker’s gavel to step down. Pelosi, of California, has led the House of Democrats for the past 20 years, and her colleagues honored her with the honorary title of “Speaker Emeritus” on Tuesday night.

“This is an important moment for the House — a new generation of leadership,” Rep. Chris Pappas, DN.H., said before the vote.
Although Democrats will be reduced to a minority in the House in the new year, they will have some leverage because the Republican majority is expected to be so slim and McCarthy’s hold on his party is fragile.

The two potential new House leaders, Jeffries and McCarthy, are of the same generation but have almost no real relationship — in fact, the Democrat is known for throwing political gaffes at a Republican from afar, especially because of the GOP’s embrace of former President Donald Trump. Trump. Jeffries served as House Speaker during Trump’s first impeachment.

“We’re still dealing with the consequences of Trumpism,” Jeffries said, “and what it has represented as a very destabilizing force for American democracy.”

Jeffries said he hopes to find “common ground if possible” with Republicans but will “stand up to their extremism if we have to.”

On the other side of the Capitol, Jeffries will have a partner in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as the two New Yorkers are poised to lead the Democratic Party in Congress. They live about a mile (1.6 kilometers) apart in Brooklyn.

“I think there’s going to be a group of mainstream Republicans who don’t want to go in the MAGA direction, and Hakeem is the perfect person to work with them,” Schumer said in an interview, referring to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” speech.

Jeffries was sometimes met with skepticism by party progressives, seen as a more centrist figure among House Democrats.
But Rep. Rashida Tlaib, R-Michigan, a progressive and part of a “squad” of liberal lawmakers, said she was heartened by how Jeffries and his team are reaching out even when they are not facing opponents.

“There is a real sense that he wants to develop relationships and working partnerships with many of us,” she said.

Clark, the second-place finisher, is seen as a coalition-builder on the leadership team, while Aguilar, the third-place finisher, is known as a backroom conduit to centrists and even Republicans.

Clyburn, now the highest-ranking black American in Congress, will seek to become an assistant leader of the Democratic Party, helping a new generation in the transition.

Elections for Clyburn and several others are expected to be held Thursday.

Jeffries’ ascension was a milestone for black Americans: The Capitol was built with the labor of enslaved people, and its dome was later expanded during Abraham Lincoln’s presidency as a symbol of the nation during the Civil War.

“The thing about Pete, Kathryn and I is that we embrace what the Chamber represents,” Jeffries said, calling it “the institution closest to the people.”

Although House Democrats are often a big, diverse, “noisy family,” he said, “that’s a good thing.” He said: “At the end of the day, we’re always looking to find the greatest common denominator to do great things for ordinary Americans.”

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC.

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