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Jeffries Set to Lead House Democrats   11/30 06:29

   Emboldened House Democrats are poised to usher in a new generation of 
leaders with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becoming the first Black American to head a 
major political party in Congress as long-serving Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her 
team step aside.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Emboldened House Democrats are poised to usher in a new 
generation of leaders with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries becoming the first Black 
American to head a major political party in Congress as long-serving Speaker 
Nancy Pelosi and her team step aside.

   Showing rare party unity after their midterm election losses, the House 
Democrats are expected to move seamlessly Wednesday from one history-making 
leader to another, uniting around the 52-year-old New Yorker, who has vowed to 
"get things done," even after Republicans won control of the chamber.

   "It's a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting," Jeffries told 
reporters on the eve of Wednesday's vote. "And the best thing that we can do as 
a result of the seriousness and solemnity of the moment is lean in hard and do 
the best damn job that we can for the people."

   It's rare that a party that lost the midterm elections would so easily 
regroup and stands in stark contrast with the upheaval among Republicans, who 
are struggling to unite around GOP leader Kevin McCarthy as the new House 
speaker as they prepare to take control when the new Congress convenes in 
January.

   Wednesday's internal Democratic caucus votes are being held behind closed 
doors, and Jeffries and the other top leaders are expected to win by 
acclamation, without challengers.

   The trio led by Jeffries, who is poised to become the Democratic minority 
leader, includes 59-year-old Rep. Katherine Clark of Massachusetts as the 
Democratic whip and 43-year-old Rep. Pete Aguilar of California as caucus 
chairman. The new team of Democratic leaders is expected to slide into the 
slots held by Pelosi and her top lieutenants -- Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of 
Maryland and Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina -- as the 
80-something leaders make way for the next generation.

   But in many ways, the trio has been transitioning in plain sight, as one 
aide put it -- Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar working with Pelosi's nod these past 
several years in lower-rung leadership roles as the first woman to have the 
speaker's gavel prepared to step down. Pelosi, of California, has led the House 
Democrats for the past 20 years, and colleagues late Tuesday granted her the 
honorific title of "speaker emerita."

   "It an important moment for the caucus -- that there's a new generation of 
leadership," said Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H., ahead of voting.

   While Democrats will be relegated to the House minority in the new year, 
they will have a certain amount of leverage because the Republican majority is 
expected to be so slim and McCarthy's hold on his party fragile.

   The House's two new potential leaders, Jeffries and McCarthy, are of the 
same generation but have almost no real relationship to speak of -- in fact the 
Democrat is known for leveling political barbs at the Republican from afar, 
particularly over the GOP's embrace of former President Donald Trump. Jeffries 
served as a House manager during Trump's first impeachment.

   "We're still working through the implications of Trumpism," Jeffries said, 
"and what it has meant, as a very destabilizing force for American democracy."

   Jeffries said he hopes to find "common ground when possible" with 
Republicans but will "oppose their extremism when we must."

   On the other side of the Capitol, Jeffries will have a partner in Senate 
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer as two New Yorkers are poised to helm the 
Democratic leadership in Congress. They live about a mile (1.6 kilometers) 
apart in Brooklyn.

   "There are going to be a group, in my judgment, of mainstream Republicans 
who are not going to want to go in the MAGA direction, and Hakeem's the ideal 
type guy to work with them," Schumer said in an interview, referencing Trump's 
"Make America Great Again" slogan.

   Jeffries has sometimes been met with skepticism from party progressives, 
viewed as a more centrist figure among House Democrats.

   But Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., a progressive and part of the "squad" of 
liberal lawmakers, said she has been heartened by the way Jeffries and his team 
are reaching out, even though they face no challengers.

   "There's a genuine sense that he wants to develop relationships and working 
partnerships with many of us," she said.

   Clark, who is seeking the No. 2 spot, is expected to speak to her colleagues 
Wednesday about the importance of being a unified party, as the Democrats 
transition to the minority, and confront the Republicans.

   She is seen as a coalition builder on the leadership team, while Aguilar, in 
the No. 3 spot, is known as a behind-the-scenes conduit to centrists and even 
Republicans.

   Clyburn, now the highest-ranking Black American in Congress, will seek to 
become the assistant democratic leader, helping the new generation to 
transition.

   The election for Clyburn's post and several others are expected to be held 
Thursday.

   Jeffries' ascent comes as a milestone for Black Americans, the Capitol built 
with the labor of enslaved people and its dome later expanded during Abraham 
Lincoln's presidency as a symbol the nation would stand during the Civil War.

   "The thing about Pete, Katherine and myself is that we embrace what the 
House represents," Jeffries said, calling it "the institution closest to the 
people."

   While the House Democrats are often a big, diverse, "noisy family," he said, 
"it's a good thing. At the end of the day, we're always committed to finding 
the highest common denominator in order to get big things done for everyday 
Americans."

 
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