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House Democrats just officially elected Hakeem Jeffries as House minority leader, making him the most powerful Democrat in the House.
Jeffries is the first Black congressional leader in history. At 52, he is 31 years younger than former leader Nancy Pelosi and 20 years younger than his counterpart in the Senate, the majority leader, Chuck Schumer.
House Democrats have been voting for their new leaders in a closed-door session. Jeffries, who was formerly caucus chair, ran unopposed.
Jeffries, for his part, insists he hasn’t had much time to reflect on the historic significance of his leadership role, saying he’s focused instead on the Democrats’ transition to the minority and “the solemn responsibility” he’s about to assume.
“The best thing that we can do as a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment, is lean in hard and do the best damn job that we can for people,” he said.
Humbled to be elected incoming House Democratic Leader.
Ready to get to work.
— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) November 30, 2022
“As an African American, it sends a message out to this country that it’s time for real diversity and inclusion. And there are so many people of color who are capable and competent and can lead,” said Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), a 32-year veteran member of the Black Caucus.
“This will be a great image for people of color, and for Black people and little Black boys to be able to aspire to a position as high as that.”
With divisive policies and deadly rhetoric stemming from many GOP members, NPR reports Jeffries said he has an “open mind” in terms of his relationship with the top House Republican, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, D-Calif., who was nominated to serve as the speaker. McCarthy is still working to secure the votes he needs to be elected by the full House.
Hakeem Jeffries was just unanimously elected leader of the House Democrats. He will be the GOP’s worst nightmare. pic.twitter.com/exNAkFpKyh
— MeidasTouch (@MeidasTouch) November 30, 2022
Jeffries said he has more experience with the incoming majority leader, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and said he would look for areas of common ground. But he stressed that McCarthy has a lot of members Jeffries considers “extreme” and he is prepared to oppose GOP efforts to push far-right policies.