House Democrats elect Hakeem Jeffries as Congress' first Black party leader

Nolan D. McCaskill, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON — House Democrats tapped Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York on Wednesday to lead them in the next Congress, and elected California Rep. Pete Aguilar as House Democratic Caucus chair.

The historic selection of Jeffries as the incoming minority leader means he will replace Rep. James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., in January as the highest-ranking African American member of the House and become the first Black lawmaker to lead either party in the chamber.

In addition to Aguilar, Jeffries will be joined in the top tier of leadership by Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., as minority whip.

Democrats say their new leadership team is reflective of America’s diversity.

Clark will become the second woman in congressional history to serve as whip, tasking her with having a grip on where members stand on legislative issues and, when needed, pressuring them to toe the party line.

Aguilar will follow former Reps. Xavier Becerra of California and Robert Menendez of New Jersey as the third Latino member to chair the Democratic Caucus. Becerra is now secretary of Health and Human Services, while Menendez is a member of the Senate.


In his new post, Aguilar will lead caucus meetings and hold weekly news conferences. The position is limited to two consecutive terms, but Aguilar would be poised to become majority whip if Democrats take back the House in 2024.

The incoming group of Democratic leaders will succeed the party’s longtime leadership trio of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., and Clyburn, who currently serves as majority whip.

That group of octogenarians will continue their service into the next Congress, though only Clyburn wants to remain in leadership. But Clyburn is facing an eleventh-hour challenge for assistant Democratic leader from Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who announced a surprise bid Wednesday. The caucus is expected to hold its vote for that position Thursday.

Cicilline, a gay member who chairs the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, told reporters that the recent shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado reminded him of the importance of representation, echoing what he wrote in his letter to colleagues asking for their support.


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