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Hakeem Jeffries elected House Democratic leader, making history as first Black lawmaker to lead a ma

Ken Tren - USA TODAY

House Democrats elected New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries to lead their party in the next Congress, succeeding House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Jeffries will make history as the first Black lawmaker to lead a major party in Congress.

Jeffries, 52, who has served in the House since 2013 and is currently chair of the House Democratic Caucus, marks a generational change in the party after two decades of leadership under Pelosi, who announced her retirement from the post in November.

"Today, with immense pride, I stood in front of the House Democratic Caucus as a candidate for Democratic Leader, and I am eternally grateful for the trust my colleagues place din me with their votes," Jeffries said in a statement following his election.

In a closed-door meeting, Jeffries was voted in by acclamation (meaning no roll call vote) alongside Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark, who was chosen as party whip, and California Rep. Pete Aguilar, who was elected to replace Jeffries as chair of the House Democratic Caucus. The new leadership trio ran unopposed.

“Hakeem Jeffries’ elevation as House Democratic leader is a turning point in the history of the United States Congress,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.

Jefferies, Clark and Aguilar will lead a Democratic minority after Republicans narrowly clinched control of the House in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Seen as more low-key and centrist than the current speaker, Jeffries has worked on drug sentencing changes with then-GOP Rep. Doug Collins, while also leading efforts on a police reform bill that outlawed chokeholds. The policing bill died in the Senate.

Pelosi also picked him to serve as one of seven House managers in 2020 to prosecute President Donald Trump in his first impeachment trial.

"It is my hope that we can find common ground where possible with our Republican colleagues in order to deliver results for the American people," Jeffries wrote in a Nov. 18 letter to Democratic colleagues announcing his bid to lead the party.

On Tuesday night, before Jeffries’ election, Pelosi was unanimously given the honorific title of “Speaker Emerita,” after a historic leadership run as the first female speaker of the House.

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