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House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries is believed to be the leading candidate to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader after her decision to step down, which she announced from the well of the House Thursday.
Jeffries, 52, a five-term New York Democrat, represents a major Democratic power center in New York City – just as Pelosi represents a similar stronghold in San Francisco.
By the current leadership chart, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is second-in-line to replace Pelosi. The 83-year-old Maryland Democrat has served as Pelosi’s top deputy in the House leadership for nearly 20 years.
Hoyer is well-liked by colleagues and commands respect for his legislative knowledge. But Hoyer announced Thursday that he would not be running for a leadership position next congress, appearing to clear the path for Jeffries.
“I believe that it is time for me . . . to continue my service in a different role,” said Hoyer. “Therefore, I have decided not to seek elected leadership in the 118th Congress.”
Jeffries would inject a relative element of youth into a Democratic leadership that includes three octogenarians at the top. He also brings to the table experience in a leadership position that some others don’t have, strong support from many in the party establishment, and respect from even some Republicans. Jeffries was also an impeachment manager for former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.
But in a House Democratic caucus that’s become increasingly progressive in recent years, Jeffries could very well face a challenge from his left flank. The New York Democrat, however, also has a deep bench of support from the more than 50-member Congressional Black Caucus (CBC).
Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s decision to step down has created an opening to lead House Democrats for the first time in nearly 20-years.
“I’m very comfortable saying I believe that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus would vote for Hakeem Jeffries,” said CBC Chariwoman Joyce Beatty, D-Ohio.
In addition to Pelosi and Hoyer, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn also plans to step down from leadership. The South Carolina Democrat’s exit clears the way for a full turnover of House leadership.
Incumbent assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, D-Mass., is expected to run for minority whip. Similarly, current Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguiliar of California is likely to run for chairman of the House conference.
It remains to be seen whether Jeffries or any of the others will be challenged. Speculation has arisen that Rep. Prmaila Jayapal, D-Wash, could be a leadership contender.
Jayapal, the chair of the nearly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, has long been speculated to have leadership ambitions.
Over the past two years, Jayapal has worked hard to push Pelosi and House Democrats to the left by threatening to derail President Biden’s legislative initiatives, including the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, unless they were tailored to progressive priorities.
Outgoing House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has been rumoured to be planning a leadership bid for months.
In recent days, however, Schiff’s allies have said the Californian is leaning more towards running for the U.S. Senate if Dianne Feinstein retires in 2024 as expected (Fox News)