Home USA News The next generation: Hakeem Jeffries to lead House Democrats

The next generation: Hakeem Jeffries to lead House Democrats

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Emboldened House Democrats are poised to nominate a new generation of leaders with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries…

WASHINGTON (AP) — Emboldened House Democrats are poised to nominate a new generation of leaders from Representative Hakeem Jeffries became the first black American to lead a major political party in Congress after longtime Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her team stepped aside.

Demonstrating a rare party unity after them losses in midterm electionsHouse Democrats are expected to move smoothly from one history-making leader to another on Wednesday, rallying around the 57-year-old New Yorker who has vowed to “get it done” even after Republicans got control over the ward.

“It’s a solemn responsibility that we all inherit,” Jeffries told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s vote. “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, a stark contrast to the upheaval among Republicans struggling to rally around Republican Party leader Kevin McCarthy as the new speaker of the House of Representatives as they prepare to take control when the new Congress convenes in January.

The Democratic caucus’ vote is behind closed doors on Wednesday, and Jeffries and other top leaders are expected to win by acclamation without challengers.

The trio, led by Jeffries, who is poised to become the Democratic minority leader, includes Rep. Kathryn Clark, 59, of Massachusetts, as the Democratic Party member, and Rep. Pete Aguilar, 43, of California, as the caucus chairman. A new team of Democratic Party leaders is expected to take their seats Pelosi and her senior lieutenants — Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina — as the leaders of the ’80s narrowly 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 new potential House leaders, Jeffries and McCarthy, are of the same generation but have almost no real relationship—in fact, the Democrat is known for inflicting political insults on a Republican from afar, especially because the GOP supports him former President Donald 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, who is running for second place, is expected to speak to her colleagues on Wednesday about the importance of uniting the party as Democrats move into the minority and face off against Republicans.

She is seen as a coalition builder in the leadership team, while Aguilar, who is ranked third, is known as a backroom conduit for centrists and even Republicans.

Clyburn, now the highest-ranking black American in Congress, will seek to become an aide to the Democratic leader, 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. At the end of the day, we’re always looking to find the greatest common denominator to do great things for ordinary Americans.”

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Associated Press writer Michelle L. Price in New York contributed to this report.

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