House Democrats have chosen Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to succeed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as their party leader, making him the first Black person to lead one of the two major parties in either chamber of Congress and the highest-ranking Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill, CNN reports.
On Wednesday (November 30), House Democrats made the historic decision "behind closed doors" on Capitol Hill following Pelosi announcing her retirement as the top leader earlier this month.
Jeffries, the current caucus chairman and a five-term New York Democrat, faced no challengers in his run to lead the House Democratic caucus. Since Republicans will hold the majority in the next Congress, Jeffries will lead in a Democratic minority.
Also stepping down from Democratic leadership are Pelosi's two top deputies, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., are in the running for Democratic Whip and Democratic Caucus Chair, respectively, in hopes of rounding out the new leadership team.
Pelosi, who was appointed “Speaker Emerita” through a unanimous vote by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Tuesday (November 29), has thrown her support behind Jeffries, Clark, and Aguilar to take on the top roles, saying they are "ready and willing to assume this awesome responsibility."
“In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation," Pelosi said in a statement after announcing her retirement. "Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark, and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power."
Jeffries said he hopes to “lead an effort that centers our communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide.” He also applauded the efforts of past leadership, but asserted that “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.”