With the Democrats taking over the House during the last election, it appears all the Congressional new blood is leading to new leadership across the board. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York will be the new Democratic Caucus leader, and Rep. Karen Bass of California will be the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Jeffries, 48, beat former CBC chair Rep. Barbara Lee of California in a 123-113 vote according to The Hill. At 72, Lee would have been the first black woman to be elected to the post had she won.
“I stand on the shoulders of people like Jim Clyburn … There’s a great legacy of the Congressional Black Caucus,” Jeffries said after the vote. “It’s a proud moment for our community. But I’m focused on standing up for everyone.”
Lee saw her loss as being indicative of sexism and ageism. She told reporters “You heard and saw what took place. “So I absolutely think that that’s the case.”
“And that is something that women, especially women of color and African-American women, have to fight constantly each and every day,” she added. “We still have many glass ceilings to break.”
As both The Hill and the New York Times note, Jeffries’ win is emblematic of the younger class of freshman Congress members who seem eager to shake things up, turning loose the old guard in favor of new voices and leadership.
Even as Nancy Pelosi stands ready to resume her role as the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House-which she did under President Obama-with the backing of Reps. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts, John Lewis of Georgia and Katie Hill of California, there are opponents of the 78-year-old who hope she will not have the 218 votes it will take to keep her position.
Democrats have reportedly expressed concern about Pelosi, Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, 79, and Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, 78, being the septuagenarian leadership of a party that is long overdue for a generational changing of hands.
“Some people are going to define this as a generational thing and filling the bench, and they’re with Hakeem Jeffries,” said Representative Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, told the Times prior to Jeffries’ win being announced. “Others are going to say experience counts, and they’re going to honor the battle scars Barbara wears.”
Mr. Connolly declined to tell the Times how he voted and said, “The caucus is torn, and I can relate to both sentiments.”
Meanwhile, the Congressional Black Caucus elected and announced its new chair. Rep. Karen Bass of California will be the 26th chair of the CBC, and the eighth woman to hold the position.
Outgoing CBC chair Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA) said in a release announcing Bass’s election. “From her days in the California General Assembly where she became the first African-American woman in U.S. history to lead a state legislative body, to her work in Congress to address both domestic and international issues affecting people of African descent, Congresswoman Bass has demonstrated tried and true leadership. I commend Congresswoman Bass on becoming the new chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. There’s much work to be done next Congress to ensure equality and justice for African Americans and other marginalized communities, and I am confident Congresswoman Bass will continue to provide strong leadership in this regard.”
The CBC also elected Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH) as 1st Vice Chair; Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI) as 2nd Vice Chair; Congressman Hank Johnson (D-GA) as Secretary; Congressman A. Donald McEachin (D-VA) as Whip; and Congressman-elect Steven Horsford (D-NV) as Parliamentarian.