WASHINGTON — House Democrats elected new leaders Wednesday, ushering in a long-awaited generational change from the three endogeneers who have led them for two decades, installing three top leaders in Congress that are all white for the first time in the history of a party or chamber.
Then in a scene of solidarity They lost the House in the by-elections But with a stronger-than-expected turnout, Democrats skipped the vote and elected Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York as minority leader, becoming the first black person to hold the top spot. Rep. Catherine Clark of Massachusetts was named House Democrats’ top vote counter, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California was named party caucus chair in charge of messaging.
Mr. Jeffries, 52, Mrs. Clark, 59 and Mr. Aguilar, 43, has positioned himself as an unofficial co-candidate for years and patiently waited his turn, running unopposed after Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat. He has led the party for two decades and announced this month She stays awayHis party paved the way for new faces at the top.
Majority Leader Rep. Steny H. of Maryland Hoyer considered trying to remain at the helm and said he had support to do so, but ultimately decided against it. and Representative Adam B., Democrat of California. Schiff weighed in. Mr. for the post of Minority Leader. Jeffries is a challenger, but many Democrats say he doesn’t have the votes. Last week, Mr. Schiff, Mr. He told Jeffries that he would explore a run for the Senate and wished him well in the upcoming leadership election.
The mood was upbeat Wednesday inside an ornate committee hearing room across from the Capitol where Democrats met to choose their new leaders.
“We want Petey Pie!” Lawmakers Mr. When Aguilar was nominated, two people in the room said they chanted using the nickname his grandmother gave him.
At another point, Rep. Terry Sewell of Alabama, former President Donald J. Borrowing a lyric from rapper Biggie Smalls, famously quoted on the Senate floor during Trump’s first impeachment, Mr. A call-and-response chant for Jeffries. Investigation.
“If you didn’t know,” exclaimed Mrs. Sewell, “now you do,” called back the members.
In stark contrast to the fractious Republican convention, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is struggling to muster the support that Democrats, the majority, see as a sign of strength and unity in the absence of contested races. Became orator in the midst of a rebellion on his right. A historically weak midterm performance has given the GOP a razor-thin majority in the next Congress, making the job of leading it more difficult.
“It shows that the Democrats are in line and the Republicans are in disarray,” said Rep. Ted Lew, Democrat of California, adding that the new leaders, who include a black man, a white woman and a Latino man, “reflect the beauty of America’s diversity.”
Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said he was pleased to have a leader who “really represents the diversity of our caucus.”
A new US Congress takes shape
Following the 2022 midterm elections, Democrats retain control of the Senate and Republicans flip the House.
Mr. Aguilar said at a news conference, “When Kevin McCarthy bids real estate and square footage for every vote he can, we’re in this together.” Mr. Trump said House Democrats are united because they share a commitment to fight for “the young, the old, the immigrant, the veteran, the poor, the sick, the victimized, the underprivileged, the dispossessed and the left.” Jeffries said.
He said Democrats will “push back against extremism whenever necessary.”
Still, some Democrats called the uncontested election a missed opportunity to discuss how their party is changing and how it should move forward.
“This is the most significant generational change we’ve seen among House Democrats in decades,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. “I personally believe we would benefit from a discussion about what that is.”
The leadership elections marked a major shift for the caucus, which had been led by the same trio of leaders for two decades, effectively shutting out dozens of younger legislators who had been waiting to ascend.
Ms. Pelosi’s announcement before Thanksgiving that she was stepping down from the leadership post marked a long-awaited change. Mr. Hoyer quickly followed suit, saying Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina would give up the third-ranked spot and take a lower seat.
However, his decision to remain in the leadership rankled some members.
On Wednesday, Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, who is gay, nominated Mr. He said he plans to challenge Clyburn.
“With so much at stake, I think it is critical that the House Democratic leadership team fully reflect the diversity of our caucus and the American people by adding an LGBTQ+ member to the leadership table,” he said in a letter to his colleagues. The auction will be decided on Thursday.
Speaking to reporters before the election, Mr. Jeffries described the role he will take on as a “personal responsibility”.
“If we have the opportunity to work as diverse leaders, the most meaningful thing we can do in that space is to do incredibly good work,” said Mr. Jeffries said.
He downplayed divisions among Democrats and expressed confidence in his ability to hold the party together in the coming year with his prospective leadership team.
“There’s nothing better than being in the minority and having a clear purpose and goal to return to the majority so we can continue to deliver great things to everyday Americans,” he said.
Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, said his Brooklyn neighbor, Mr. He said he has known Jeffries for years and expects to talk to him as much as he does to Ms. Pelosi now: four to five times a day.
“It’s like Pelosi,” Mr. Schumer said in an interview. “When I first met her, I said, ‘This person is special, she’s going somewhere.'” I felt the same way about Hakeem.
Mr. Schumer, Mr. Jeffries said Ms. Pelosi “always had a leg up” in the race to succeed her.
“He was very good at reaching out to people of many ideologies,” Mr. Schumer said, Mr. Jeffries predicted it could cross 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 can’t think of a better person to work with them to get some things done,” Mr. Schumer said.
Luke Broadwater And Stephanie Loy Contributed report.
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