Over more than 246 years, a Black person has never held their party’s top job in either chamber of Congress. Today, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) took the first step toward becoming the Democrats’ next leader in a House likely to see his party back in the minority, albeit a slim one.
Jeffries, who hails from Brooklyn and represents large parts of Brooklyn and Queens, is considered the front-runner to be the next Democratic leader in Congress’ lower chamber following current Speaker Nancy Pelosi ‘s(D-California) announcement on Thursday that she intends to leave her leadership post. Jeffries, 52, was first elected to Congress in 2013. Prior to that he served in the New York State Assembly for five years. In theory, Jeffries would preside over a party not in control of its own fate, with Republicans poised to take control of the House as the majority, pending the results of a few outstanding races from the midterm elections.
But even as minority leader, he’d immediately be the most powerful Democrat in the House, taking charge of committee assignments and negotiations with GOP leadership. Republicans would be limited in their own power simply by the fact their margin is so slim and that Democrats still control both the Senate and the executive branch.
Jeffries would also inherit some headaches to go along with his newfound clout. Republicans are already planning to shut down the bipartisan House Select Committee to investigate the Jan. 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol, replacing it with their own politically-motivated investigations. Some Republicans have even talked about pushing for impeachment hearings against President Joe Biden, although it’s not clear on what grounds.