The House of Democrats, united around a liberal lawyer and disciplined political tactician as the face of their opposition to the new Republican majority, formally appointed New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries as their leader on Tuesday.
On a day consumed by noisy infighting among Republicans, the rise of Mr. Jeffries has gone down in history. He is the first Black politician to lead both parties in Congress. And at 52, she represents a generational change for the House of Democrats after two decades under Representative Nancy Pelosi.
Mr Jeffries was expected to emerge as House minority leader from Tuesday’s vote, given the narrow majority of Republicans. With the Republican Party disintegrating, he garnered more support from California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the main Republican candidate in the first two rounds of voting—but he didn’t need a majority to win.
Democrats have spent little time voting to embarrass Republicans, using the differences between Mr. Jeffries and Mr. McCarthy, a close ally of former President Donald J. Trump, as a weapon. (Republicans are confident they will make their own attempts to defame Mr Jeffries in the coming months.)
“He doesn’t trade in excess. 3 Democrat California Representative Pete Aguilar said of Mr. Jeffries in a nomination speech on the House of Representatives: “Anyone who tries to undermine our democracy will not kneel down because, Miss Clerk, that’s not what leaders do.”
The son of a clerk who cuts his teeth as a lawyer at a white-shoe law firm and CBS, Mr. Jeffries rose quickly through the ranks of Democratic politics in New York and then Washington. Since 2013, it has represented some of the nation’s most iconic Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn. He built a national profile as a sharp-tongued critic and impeachment attorney during the Trump presidency, and also worked with Republicans to pass criminal justice reform legislation.
Democrats have been preparing Mr Jeffries, the former chairman of the Democratic House, as a potential leader for several years. But after Pelosi decided to step down from her position as spokesperson after last year’s midterm elections, she stepped forward alongside Mr. Aguilar and her best aides, Massachusetts Representative Katherine Clark.
Allies say Mr Jeffries is an exceptionally calm strategist and communicator and is known in Washington for sticking to carefully worded statements. But it faces no easy task: taming a rebellious and ideologically diverse Democratic party group as they seek to blunt Republican attacks on the Biden administration and win back a majority in 2024.