Democratic Party in House of Commonsone of two branches of the United States Congress, chose Hakeem Jeffries of New York to lead their caucus.
His appointment, following a unanimous vote on Wednesday, is historic. Never before has a Black politician been elected party leader in the United States Congress.
Jeffries will lead a Democrat that will lose a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since 2018. In a speech following Wednesday’s vote, Jeffries said the party would cross the aisle to work with Republican members.
But he added that Democrats would “push back on extremism whenever necessary.”
So who is Jeffries and what does his promotion mean for the future of the Democratic Party? Let’s take a look at who he’s succeeded with and his role in Congress so far.
It is humbling to be elected Leader of the Democratic Party in the upcoming House of Representatives.
Ready to go to work.
– Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) November 30, 2022
Success of a ‘speaker for all time’
Jeffries will replace the current and current California Congressman House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as head of the Democratic caucus. She is the first woman in US history to hold the role.
Pelosi — who represents California’s 12th district in the San Francisco Bay Area — has served as leader of the House Democrats for nearly 20 years. During her tenure, she became one of the country’s most powerful political figures, establishing a reputation as an accomplished leader capable of holding her caucus during the elections. important votes.
Pelosi announced she would step down as party leader on November 17 along with two other top Democrats, Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. All three are over 80 years old.
Their departure opens a Young Leaders of the Democratic Party, including 52-year-old Jeffries. He was joined by Massachusetts Congressman Katherine Clark, 59, and California Representative Pete Aguilar, 43 as whippeter and caucus chair, respectively.
Jeffries thanked Pelosi during Wednesday’s speech, calling her “an extraordinary speaker of all time who has given so much to so many people in such an important time.”
“Our caucus is better. Our country is better. The world is a better place thanks to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s incredible leadership,” he said.
Presenting a united front
Jeffries describes himself as a radical. in one Letters asking colleagues to support his bid for House Leader, Jeffries emphasized his commitment to issues such as racial justice, gun violence and reproductive rights.
Andy Eichar, communications director for the Jeffries office, told Al Jazeera via email that Jeffries gave his all to win the championship. criminal justice reform and that he will defend health care from “right-wing attacks”.
However, Jeffries has taken a more conservative stance in the debate about the future of the Democratic Party and is expected to use his stance to hit back at challenges from the party’s more progressive left.
For example, in an interview with The Atlantic, Jeffries said he would never “bend to the hard left-wing democratic socialism”. He was also a strong supporter of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she ran in the 2016 Democratic primary against Senator Bernie Sandersa self-described democratic socialist.
Pushing for a united front on Wednesday, Jeffries admitted that his party conversations can get “noisy”.
However, he said, “when we show up time and time again, issue after issue, at the end of the day, we always go together.”
Support for Israel
In his new role, Jeffries is also expected to bring continuity to areas such as the United States’ relationship with Israel.
in one statement released in February, for example, Jeffries protested a report by the human rights organization Amnesty International, accusing Israel of committed the crime of racism against the Palestinians.
The statement called the allegations in the report “clearly false, dangerous and designed to isolate Israel in one of the most difficult neighborhoods in the world”.
By group open secrettrack campaign contributions, Jeffries also counts pro-Israel group such as AIPAC among his top supporters. AIPAC has also backed dozens of Republican candidates who tried to reverse or discredit the results of the 2020 election.
In a statement to Al Jazeera, Iman Abid, advocacy director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, said Jeffries “has repeatedly indicated that he supports Israel’s racist regime” and called called on US voters to pressure lawmakers like Jeffries to stop triggering “oppression of the Palestinian people”.
Towards the 2024 election
Jeffries also faces the challenge of rallying Democrats to regain a majority in the House by 2024.
Democrats have achieved control the White House and a majority in both branches of the US Congress in 2020. But Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives in the election. recent midterm electionswith new members who will be sworn in on January 3.
However, Democrats were able to maintain a fragile majority in the Senate. In his November letter, Jeffries called regaining a House majority “our top non-governmental priority”.
Jeffries will take on Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy, a representative from California who has seen himself as a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump. McCarthy will become Speaker of the House when the new Republican-led House convenes in January.
Although he will take the helm of a minority party, Jeffries delivered a confident note at a press conference on Wednesday, promising to “get the job done.”
“We will fight hard,” said Jeffries. “Every day we have the honor to serve in Congress and perform.”