WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives picked a new leader Wednesday, New York Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, who will become the first Black person to lead either major political party in Congress when the new congressional session opens in January.
The 52-year-old Jeffries, a House member for 10 years, has vowed to “get things done,” even though Democrats lost their narrow majority to opposition Republicans in the chamber in the November 8 elections.
His selection, in a unanimous vote by acclamation at a caucus of party lawmakers, marks a generational shift for Democrats. Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 82, has been the party’s leader for two decades but announced earlier this month she would remain in the House but not seek a party leadership position in the new Congress as Republicans take control.
Jeffries was one of three new leaders Democrats elected, along with Massachusetts Congresswoman Katherine Clark, 59, as the Democratic whip and California Congressman Pete Aguilar, 43, as caucus chairman.
Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California is on track to becoming the new House speaker, although opposition from some conservative Republican lawmakers has left his election uncertain.
With Republicans controlling the House in the new Congress, while Democrats are assured of maintaining control of the Senate and Democrat Joe Biden is president, political agreement on major legislation is likely to be difficult in Washington.
Newly empowered House Republicans have said they intend to focus their attention on launching numerous investigations of the Biden administration, on issues such as last year’s chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan, its handling of migration issues at the U.S. border with Mexico, and the business affairs of Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, and any financial links to the president.
The White House has said it will cooperate with some Republican inquiries but not one involving Hunter Biden.