House Democrats chose caucus chair Hakeem Jeffries of New York to succeed Nancy Pelosi as leader of the Democrats in the chamber next year, a historic move that will make him the first Black person to lead one of the two major parties in either chamber of Congress.
House Democrats met behind closed doors Wednesday morning on Capitol Hill to make their decision.
Jeffries ran unopposed as leader, with Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, current assistant speaker, running as whip and California Rep. Peter Aguilar, previously vice chair of the caucus, and was expected to win the spot to lead the House Democratic caucus.
Republicans have the majority in the next Congress, so Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar will all lead in a Democratic minority, the first in two terms.
At 52, Jeffries will represent a generational change from the current triumvirate of House Democratic leaders, who are three decades older than him. He became the chairman of the Democratic caucus in 2019, making him the youngest member serving in leadership.
His rise in leadership comes after Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn announced they would be stepping down from their current leadership positions. Clyburn is expected to become assistant leader in the new Congress.
Pelosi – who was designated “Speaker Emerita” in a unanimous vote by the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee Tuesday night – blessed the new trio of leaders expected to succeed them in a statement when she announced she would step down and return to being a rank-and-file member in the new Congress.
“A new day is dawning — and I am confident that these new leaders will capably lead our Caucus and the Congress,” she said.
Pelosi reiterated her support for Jeffries Thursday night, telling reporters at the White House State Dinner, where high-profile lawmakers honored French President Emmanuel Macron, that she’s feeling “great, and happy, and relieved” about her successor.
For months, Democratic lawmakers have whispered that Pelosi’s potential exit from Congress could pave the way for Jeffries.
Jeffries said he hopes to “lead an effort that centers our communication strategy around the messaging principle that values unite, issues divide.” He also praised the past leadership but said “more must be done to combat inflation, defend our democracy, secure reproductive freedom, welcome new Americans, promote equal protection under the law and improve public safety throughout this country.”
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments Thursday.