BY: JENNIFER SHUTT
WASHINGTON — The three U.S. House Democrats who have led their party through four presidencies and thousands of floor votes formally passed the torch to the next generation Wednesday, when the party gathered behind closed doors to elect its top leaders for the 118th Congress.
House Democrats named Hakeem Jeffries, of New York, as their leader. Jeffries, 52, will make history as the first Black lawmaker to lead any party in Congress.
Katherine Clark, 59, of Massachusetts, was elected as whip, and Pete Aguilar, 43, of California, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, as caucus chair. The trio will take over in January when Congress convenes for the next session and Democrats move into the minority.
All three leaders-elect ran uncontested, solidifying a smooth transition that’s been on the horizon for years, but didn’t move forward until Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she’d step aside from leadership earlier this month. Pelosi, 82, will remain in Congress under the honorific title “Speaker Emerita.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, congratulated Jeffries, his fellow New Yorker.
“Hakeem Jeffries’ elevation as House Democratic leader is a turning point in the history of the United States Congress,” Schumer said from the Senate floor. “Never before has an African American leader, or any leader of color, held a top position for either party in either chamber.”
Schumer, who lives in Brooklyn, said he was excited to work with Jeffries, who represents part of Brooklyn in the House, on Democratic priorities during the next Congress.
“He is someone who I know will both hold the line on our Democratic values while being ready to listen and keep an open mind,” Schumer said. “I know he can work with the other side whenever it’s necessary.”
Schumer said he looks forward to talking with “my neighbor from Brooklyn, four or six times a day, like I did with Speaker Pelosi.”