House Democrats nominate Hakeem Jeffries to replace Pelosi as first Black party leader in Congress

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House Democrats nominated Representative Hakeem Jeffries to serve as their leader and replace Nancy Pelosi, making him the first Black person to lead a party in Congress.

A Democrat first elected to Congress to represent Brooklyn and Queens, Mr Jeffries currently serves as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Mr Jeffries assumed this role after fellow New York Representative Joe Crowley lost his primary to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2018. Democrats nominated Representative Pete Aguilar to replace Mr Jeffries as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus while they nominated Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts to serve as House Minority Whip.

Mr Jeffries’ ascent to lead House Democrats comes after Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she would step aside from her role as Democratic leader and serve her final term as a backbencher in the House. In addition, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Whip James Clyburn announced they would step aside, though Mr Clyburn would take a more junior role as assistant Democratic Leader.

Mr Jeffries was first elected to the House in 2012 after serving in the New York state assembly. Often mixing sneakers with his suit, he has quoted the Notorious BIG on the House floor.

In 2020, he served as an impeachment manager during former president Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Mr Jeffries has often clashed with progressives. In 2016, he vocally criticised Senator Bernie Sanders’s run for president for his record on gun violence. In 2018, he won his bid for House Democratic Caucus Chairman when some Democrats used the fact that Representative Barbara Lee, a progressive from California, gave money to Ms Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign in 2018, though Ms Lee gave money after Ms Ocasio-Cortez already beat Mr Crowley.

Similarly, he has also tussled with Ms Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad,” vocally supporting Democratic incumbent Representative William Lacy Clay in Missouri’s 1st district primary before Cori Bush beat him. Some also worry about his ties to the financial industry.

But Mr Jeffries is also a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus along with the Congressional Black Caucus. His assumption of the role comes after Democrats lost their majority in the November election, albeit only by a slim margin.

The thin majority that Republicans have means that Republicans will often like to consult with Democrats to usher through must-pass legislation like raising the debt limit or keeping the government if conservatives defect.

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