Hakeem Jeffries Becomes First Black Party Leader in U.S. Congress History

For the first time in the history of the United States, we have a Black party leader in Congress and his name is Hakeem Jeffries. No matter which way you swing on the political pendulum, we can all agree that this is a major turning point in American politics – more specifically, in the House of Representatives. 

Hakeem Jeffries has been serving as the U.S. representative for New York’s 8th congressional district since January 2013, as well as Chair of the House Democratic Caucus since January 2019. He brings with him a lot of Democratic support, though he is viewed as ‘far-left’ by many Republican colleagues. 

He will be replacing Nancy Pelosi as Leader of the Democratic Caucus, who has spent the past 20 years as Leader of the House Democratic Caucus (since 2003) and became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007. She gave a 14-minute speech on the House floor announcing her shocking decision.

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The decision comes less than a day after the Democrats were projected to lose their majority in the House of Representatives – though they’ll keep control of the Senate. In her speech, Pelosi confirmed that she’ll stay a member of Congress and continue serving out the term to which she was elected. 

As for Hakeem Jeffries, he was elected as her replacement in a vote on Capitol Hill on Wednesday – he ran unopposed. He’ll become the new Leader of House Democrats in early 2023 and will be making history as the first African American to assume that title – not just in the House, but in the Senate too. 

Hakeem Jeffries expressed his devotion to the Democratic party in a letter he wrote to his colleagues on November 18th. “Building upon my leadership experience and our shared journey, I look forward to creating a better future together for all Americans and humbly ask for your support,” he wrote in the letter.

The 52-year-old politician dedicates his work to ‘three operating principles – ‘empowering all members to do more, prioritizing their security after the attack on the Capitol, and reclaiming the majority in the 2024 elections,’ according to BuzzFeed. In her speech, Pelosi expressed her excitement for the party’s future.

Hakeem Jeffries Receives an Expected Mix of Support and Criticism

As can be expected when a politician becomes a party leader – or anytime a politician is elected to anything – Hakeem Jeffries is facing a mix of support (mostly from Democrats) and criticism (mostly from Republicans). Either way, Jeffries is intent on continuing to earn the utmost respect from both parties. 

“He is a skilled and capable leader who will help us win back the Majority in 2024 as we strive to continue delivering on our promises to the American people,” said House Majority Steny Hoyer, D-Md. Hoyer has worked under Pelosi for years, but he also announced he would be stepping down early next year. 

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas believes ‘Leader Jeffries will be good for America,’ while Representative Mark Pocan congratulated Jeffries and seconded the nomination. This marks a turning point in Democratic history as the party seeks to usher in a newer, younger generation of leaders. 

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In addition to Hakeem Jeffries becoming the Leader of the Democratic Caucus, there are two other changes being made inside the party. Representative Katherine Clark of Massachusetts will become the new whip and Representative Pete Aguilar of California will become the new caucus chair.

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