WASHINGTON — House Democrats will choose their new leadership team Wednesday morning, ushering in a younger generation of leaders after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer decided to step aside after the Democrats narrowly lost their majority this month.
Pelosi, 82, of California, the first woman Speaker of the House, will pass the torch to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, DN.Y., 52, who is running unopposed for Minority Leader and will make history as the first black legislator to lead a political party caucus in either house.
“This is a time of transition,” Jeffries told a small group of reporters on Capitol Hill Tuesday night. “We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we also hope that we can do whatever it takes right now to make progress on the issues.”
Jeffries’ top deputy will be Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Massachusetts, 59, a progressive who served under Jeffries as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and rose to assistant speaker in this Congress. She is running unopposed for the minority whip, the party’s top vote-counter.
Rounding out the trio of new leaders is Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., 43, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and former mayor who is running unopposed for Democratic Caucus chairman, the position Jeffries has held for the past four years. .
The choice of Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar represents a changing of the guard for House Democrats who have seen the powerful triumvirate of Pelosi, Hoyer, D-Md., 83, and Jim Clyburn, DS.C., 82, occupy the top leadership positions. during the last two decades.
In recent years, equally ambitious and talented younger Democrats looking to climb the leadership ladder found they had nowhere to go but get out.
Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra took over as California attorney general and was later appointed by President Joe Biden as secretary of health and human services. Two of Pelosi’s loyalist deputies in the leadership, Chris Van Hollen of Maryland and Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, successfully ran for Senate seats once their options had run out.
Others, including New York’s Steve Israel, who led the campaign and communications department for House Democrats, chose to withdraw.
Of the current “Big Three” Democrats, only Clyburn, the whip of the current majority, has chosen to remain in the leadership of the new Congress. He will fill the “assistant leader” position, which has been considered the No. 3 minority position in the past, but will move to the No. 4 position this Congress.
Clyburn’s decision to stay has frustrated some younger members, who had hoped the new Congress would start from scratch. Because of Clyburn’s endorsement by the Congressional Black Caucus and other allies, it means one of the younger lawmakers won’t be able to rise to the No. 4 spot.
But Pelosi has pointed out many times that power is not given freely. you have to “take advantage of it” to get it. And no one in the caucus challenged Clyburn.
Both Pelosi and Hoyer won’t go far. Instead of resigning, the two said they will remain in Congress. And on Tuesday night, the House Democratic Policy and Leadership Committee voted unanimously to award Pelosi the ceremonial title of “Speaker Emeritus.” The resolution awarding the honor to Pelosi was offered by Jeffries.
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi will become one of the greatest legislative leaders in American history,” said Steering Committee Co-Chairs Eric Swalwell, Barbara Lee and Cheri Bustos. “By bestowing Speaker Pelosi with this honorary title, we proudly celebrate her legendary marble-ceiling breaking public service.”
When asked how her leadership style might differ from Pelosi, a shrewd lawmaker who ruled her caucus with an iron fist at times, Jeffries seemed to take a team-first view.
“The House Democratic Caucus is at its best when everyone has a chance to be on the field, playing the right position,” he said.
Jeffries dodged several questions about what it meant to him to be the first black person to lead either party in Congress.
“I haven’t really had a chance to reflect on that,” he said, later adding, “to the extent that I spent any time thinking about external narratives or the magnitude of the moment, it would take away from me the need to do real-time. decisions as we prepare to organize the new Congress”.