In an historic move, House Democrats on Wednesday (Nov. 30) elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as their leader to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi who is stepping down as House Speaker, making Jeffries the first Black lawmaker to lead a party in Congress.
CBS News reports that Jeffries, 52, ascended to the party’s leadership post in a unanimous vote. When Congress convenes on Jan. 3, the Brooklyn lawmaker will become minority leader in the House, which the Republicans will control after winning a narrow majority in the 2022 midterm elections.
Jeffries tweeted that he's "ready to get to work."
“Another barrier to equal representation has come down. Next year, Democrats will enter the House Chamber led by a Black representative for the first time,” Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), said in a statement.
“This has been a long overdue moment in America – more than 150 years after Joseph Rainey became the first Black American to serve in the House. I think today of one of my mentors, Brooklyn’s own Shirley Chisholm, who over 50 years ago became the first Black woman elected to the House. She fought to make sure Black voices didn’t only have a seat at the table – but that America listened when they spoke.”
Pelosi, 82, made history in 2003 when she became the first woman to serve as House speaker. By stepping down, she cleared the way for a younger generation of Democratic leadership. Current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the 82-year-old No. 3 House Democrat, also said they would step down from their current leadership positions.
Stepping into those positions are Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, who was elected Democratic whip, and Rep. Pete Aguilar of California, who was selected as caucus chairman.
Jeffries, a corporate lawyer and former New York State Assemblyman, was first elected to Congress in 2012, replacing long-time Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Edolphus Towns, who held the seat since 1983. In a short time, Jeffries climbed the ranks of party leadership, becoming chairman of the Democratic caucus in 2019.
A product of NYC public schools, Jeffries quoted late rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who grew up in Jeffries’ district, on the Senate floor during the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump.
“I am who I am,” Jeffries told reporters in a Tuesday news conference, according to The New York Daily News. “A child of two working-class parents from a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, coming of age during some rough times as it relates to the crack cocaine era — but also being surrounded by an incredibly loving community.”
Here are just a handfulof the numerous congratulatory messages Jeffries received.