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US House Democrats elect Jeffries leader

New York congressman Hakeem Jeffries has been elected the new US House of Representatives Democratic leader.

December 1, 2022
By AAP
1 December 2022

Hakeem Jeffries has been unanimously elected to become the Democratic Party’s top leader in the United States House of Representatives beginning in January, making him the first black person to hold such a high-ranking position in Congress.

The vote by Jeffries’ fellow Democrats also marked the rise of a younger generation of leaders in the 435-member House and the end of the Nancy Pelosi era.

In 2007 she became the first woman to be elected House Speaker.

Jeffries, a 52-year-old New Yorker, will hold the position of House Democratic leader for the 118th Congress that convenes on January 3.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he was not surprised that Jeffries, a fellow Brooklynite, was chosen.

“When you’re from Brooklyn, you learn quickly traits like persistence and serious mettle… You learn how to work with all kinds of different people. You learn how to stand your ground. You learn to not take things personally,” Schumer said on the Senate floor ahead of the vote, adding that Jeffries “exemplifies all these traits”.

The two leaders live in adjacent neighbourhoods in the borough of Brooklyn, just blocks apart from each other.

When he formally announced his candidacy on November 18, following a decade in the House, Jeffries pledged to preside over a caucus that would return power to committee members and give junior lawmakers more say in shaping legislation and being rewarded with high-profile positions.

“Meaningful policymaking and public engagement opportunities should be robustly distributed regardless of length of service,” Jeffries wrote in a letter to fellow Democrats.

Also elected as part of Jeffries’ team are Representative Katherine Clark, 59, who is seeking the No.2 Democratic whip job, and Pete Aguilar, 43, who was elected to Jeffries’ current job of Democratic caucus chairman.

“Together, this new generation of leaders reflects the vibrancy and diversity of our great nation – and they will reinvigorate our Caucus with their new energy, ideas and perspective,” Pelosi said in a statement congratulating the trio.

The regime change for Democrats comes at a time when Republicans are set to take majority control of the House on as a result of the November 8 midterm elections.

That majority will be slim, with no more than a handful of seats.

Republicans and their leader Kevin McCarthy, who wants to become the next speaker, have put Democrats on notice that they will hit the ground running, launching investigations of administration officials and even President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

They also say they want deep cuts in spending after years of both parties paying little to no attention to rising budget deficits and US debt that now exceeds $US31.3 trillion ($A46.2 trillion).

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