POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to succeed Pelosi, the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress

Nov 30, 2022, 11:15 AM
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becomes the first Black lawmaker to lead a political party in the U.S. Congres...
House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) departs a leadership election meeting with the Democratic caucus in the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Jeffries has become the leading Democrat in the House after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) steps down from leadership. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Originally Published: 30 NOV 22 05:00 ET
Updated: 30 NOV 22 11:34 ET

(CNN) — House Democrats chose caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York to succeed Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democrats in the chamber next year, a historic move that will make him the first Black person to lead one of the two major parties in either chamber of Congress.

House Democrats met behind closed doors Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill to make their decision.

Jeffries ran unopposed as leader, with Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, current assistant speaker, running as whip and California Rep. Peter Aguilar, previously vice chair of the caucus, and was expected to win the spot to lead the House Democratic caucus.

Republicans have the majority in the next Congress, so Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar will all lead in a Democratic minority, the first in two terms.

At 52, Jeffries will represent a generational change from the current triumvirate of House Democratic leaders, who are three decades older than him. He became the chairman of the Democratic caucus in 2019, making him the youngest member serving in leadership.

His rise in leadership comes after Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn announced they would be stepping down from their current leadership positions. Clyburn is expected to become assistant leader in the new Congress.

Pelosi — who was designated “Speaker Emerita” in a unanimous vote by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee Tuesday night — blessed the new trio of leaders expected to succeed them in a statement when she announced she would step down and return to being a rank-and-file member in the new Congress.

“A new day is dawning — and I am confident that these new leaders will capably lead our Caucus and the Congress,” Pelosi said.

For months, Democratic lawmakers have whispered that Pelosi’s potential exit from Congress could pave the way for Jeffries.

Jeffries said he hopes to “lead an effort that centers our communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide.” He also praised the past leadership but said “more must be done to combat inflation, defend our democracy, secure reproductive freedom, welcome new Americans, promote equal protection under the law and improve public safety throughout this country.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Wednesday.

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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to succeed Pelosi, the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress