Hakeem Jeffries Could Become First Black Party Leader In Congress

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Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is on the road to making history after he announced his bid to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the party's leader.

His announcement came on Friday (November 18), just one day after Pelosi gave a powerful floor speech announcing her retirement as the top leader of House Democrats, a role she has held for nearly two decades, NBC News reports.

"Today, I write to humbly ask for your support for the position of House Democratic Leader as we once again prepare to meet the moment," Jeffries, the current Democratic Caucus chairman and five-term New York Democrat, wrote in a letter to his colleagues. "Our Caucus must unify with purpose, communicate with discipline, legislate with precision, and partner with the Biden administration to vigorously address the continuing challenges impacting our constituents."

If Jeffries' bid is successful, he would make history as the first Black leader of a congressional caucus and the highest-ranking Black lawmaker on Capitol Hill. Though Republicans are projected to hold a slim majority of the House following the last week's midterms, Jeffries could be in line to become the nation's first Black speaker if Democrats regain control of the chamber.

Also stepping down from Democratic leadership are Pelosi's two top deputies, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

Reps. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., announced Friday that will run for Democratic Whip and Democratic Caucus Chair, respectively, in hopes of rounding out the new leadership team.

Pelosi backed Jeffries, Clark, and Aguilar to take on the top roles, saying they are "ready and willing to assume this awesome responsibility."

“In the 118th Congress, House Democrats will be led by a trio that reflects our beautiful diversity of our nation," Pelosi said in a statement Friday. "Chair Jeffries, Assistant Speaker Clark, and Vice Chair Aguilar know that, in our Caucus, diversity is our strength and unity is our power."

Clyburn said in a letter Friday that he will run for Assistant Democratic Leader in the next Congress "to work alongside our new generation of Democratic Leaders which I hope to be Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio, said Thursday (November 17) that she's confident the caucus' 50 Black lawmakers would support Jeffries' bid.

“I’m very comfortable saying I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries,” Beatty told reporters.

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