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House Democrats Vote On Leadership At Weekly Caucus Meeting

Source: Drew Angerer / Getty

In a historic moment, Hakeem Jeffries officially became the Democratic leader of the House making him the first Black person to lead a political party in either chamber of Congress.

On Wednesday, Nov. 30, Jeffries was chosen as the minority leader representing the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives. The Democrats chose the congressman from Brooklyn by acclamation vote in a private meeting. Jeffries took over for Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who had served as Speaker of the House for many years before announcing that she would step down from leadership earlier this month.

After a raucous celebration that included Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala) leading a call-and-response chant using the “if you don’t know, now you know” lyric from The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” the 52-year-old spoke of the historic significance of the moment. “I stand on the shoulders of Shirley Chisholm and others,” he said to reporters at the press conference held after the vote. Jeffries represents the same Brooklyn district that Chisholm represented and did note to reporters that his election took place on her birthday. “When we get an opportunity as diverse leaders to serve in positions of consequence, the most meaningful thing that we can do in that space is do an incredibly good job,” he continued.

Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts was elected as whip, also known as the lead vote counter for the party. Representative Pete Aguilar of California was elected as the party caucus chairman, in charge of messaging. The trio represents a striking and younger change in Democratic leadership from Pelosi, former Caucus chair Steny Hoyer (D-MD), and Jim Clyburn (D-SC). Jeffries and the Democrats are in the minority with Republicans winning the House in the upcoming Congress. But they have a better bargaining position because of the thin margin.

While there was some skepticism raised by more progressive members like fellow New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, another member of “The Squad” expressed her support. “There’s a genuine sense that he wants to develop relationships and working partnerships with many of us,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI). Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) welcomed the move, speaking of Jeffries as a “Brooklyn neighbor” who could work across party lines. “There’s going to be a whole bunch of Republicans who are not going to be happy with the MAGA direction of the party, and I couldn’t think of a better person to work with them to try and get some things done,” he said after the vote.