(WASHINGTON) — House Democrats on Wednesday elected a historic new generation of leaders.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York will succeed Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democratic Caucus.
The 52-year-old Jeffries will be the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress.
The whip will be a woman — Katherine Clark of Massachusetts — and the No. 3, Pete Aguilar of California, will become the highest-ranking Latino in Congress after rising in prominence from his perch on the high-profile Jan. 6 committee.
Elections took place behind closed doors, where members voted by secret ballot. All three ran unopposed.
In a statement following his election, Jeffries said he and his newly elected colleagues will inherit their roles from “iconic” predecessors and work with the “seriousness and solemnity” of the present political moment.
“I am particularly humbled to be accepting this honor alongside my friends and partners in leadership, incoming Democratic Whip Katherine Clark and incoming Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar. Katherine represents another important crack in the glass ceiling, a trailblazer in the tradition of Speaker Pelosi,” he said. “She makes all of us feel seen and heard and will work tirelessly to support our Democratic Caucus. I have watched how Pete brings people together to get things done, rolling up his sleeves as only a former Mayor can do. Katherine, Pete and I will work closely together fighting hard for everyday Americans.”
Pelosi issued a statement congratulating her successor, as well as Clark and Aguilar.
“Congratulations to Leader-designate Hakeem Jeffries, Whip-designate Katherine Clark and Chairman-designate Pete Aguilar! 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. Now, with the fullest confidence of our Members, our new Leaders are well-prepared to carry on Democrats’ fight for working families and defense of Democracy,” she said.
On the Senate floor ahead of the elections, Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer noted the “momentous” and historic nature of the newly elected leadership: the advancement of the first Black American to lead a chamber of Congress, the first Latino American to occupy a No. 3 slot.
“Hakeem Jeffries’ elevation as House Democratic Leader is a turning point in the history of the United States Congress. Never before has an African American leader – or any leader of color – held the top position for either party in either chamber,” he said.
The ushering in of new leadership follows Pelosi’s pre-Thanksgiving announcement of her intention to step away from her role after 20 years. In her remarks before declaring her decision, the 82-year-old leader said she wanted to pave a way for a “new generation” of oversight in the Democratic party.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, 82, also announced they would step aside from their leadership posts shortly after Pelosi’s declaration.
“The hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic caucus that I so deeply respect,” she said.
Jeffries, along with Clark, 59; and Aguilar, 43, mark a generational shift to House Democrats’ top spots.
Schumer on Wednesday sentimentally noted the changing of the guards before taking a moment to praise his fellow Brooklynite, whom he’s known for years.
“Today’s gathering is unlike anything we’ve seen before. For one, it signals the end of a magnificent era. As my dear friend Speaker Nancy Pelosi has chosen to step down from leadership. We’ll never see someone like Speaker Pelosi ever again in our lifetime. But her potential successor will be history making in its own right,” he began.
“Now I’ve known Hakeem Jeffries for a long time, since before the days he was first elected to the New York State Assembly in 2006. When I first met him, I thought the same thing I thought when I first met Speaker Pelosi, here’s someone who has it all.”
The 118th Congress won’t be sworn in until January. Republicans have been projected to regain control of the House, with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy at its helm after clinching the Republican nomination for speaker in the next Congress.
Jeffries in his statement following his election noted his willingness to work with Republicans as the leader of House Democrats while continuing to fight for his party’s priorities.
“We are going to continue to put People Over Politics and fight for all our values. House Democrats will lift up working families, the middle class and those who aspire to be part of it, young people and senior citizens, veterans, the poor, the sick and the afflicted and the least, the lost and the left behind,” he said in a statement.
“We will look for common ground with Republicans whenever and wherever possible, but oppose extremism on the other side of the aisle whenever necessary.”
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