©Health & Fitness Journal. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks to reporters after a meeting of the Democratic Group on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. February 2, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON (Health & Fitness Journal) – U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on Friday formally submitted a bid to become the Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, a day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would be stepping down from her leadership role .
Jeffries, 52, would become the first black lawmaker to lead a party faction in Congress, representing both the party’s diverse constituency and a new generation of leaders.
As minority leader, Jeffrie’s primary job will be deciding when to work with Republicans to pass legislation such as government funding and when to defend the agenda of President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat.
Republicans will take control of the House of Representatives in January after winning a majority in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.
The often reserved Jeffries, known by college fraternity brothers as “Kool Ha” for his measured speech, according to the Almanac of American Politics, appeared more combative at a news conference on Tuesday.
He lashed out at what he called “extreme MAGA Republicans” taking control of the House – a reference to the “Make America Great” slogan popularized by Republican former President Donald Trump.
He built on Pelosi’s historic achievements as the first speaker of the House of Representatives and the first woman to lead a party in both houses of Congress.
If Jeffries secures the post as expected, it could be a stepping stone to potentially becoming the first black Speaker when Democrats next take control of the House.
Jeffries announced his offer in a letter released by his office, saying, “I am writing to humbly ask for your support for the position of Democratic leader of the House as we once again prepare to meet the moment.”
No challengers to Jeffries have surfaced.
Jeffries is meeting many House Democrats’ call for younger blood to replace 82-year-old Pelosi, who has held the leadership firmly in his grip for the past two decades.
Pelosi promptly issued a statement in support of Jeffries and two other Democrats seeking leadership positions.
Rep. Katherine Clark, a progressive, is running for the No. 2 Democratic whip position, and moderate Rep. Pete Aguilar should seek the post to lead the Democratic caucus, which Jeffries now holds.
“A new day is dawning — and I am confident that these new leaders will lead our caucus aptly,” Pelosi said.
Jeffries has worked for months, if not years, to position himself for Pelosi’s job.
He was first elected to Congress in 2012, having previously served in the New York state legislature, where he worked on affordable housing issues and campaigned against some police practices such as stop and frisk.
Jeffries helped lead the fight in the U.S. House of Representatives for legislation criminalizing police “choke holds” and other controversial tactics in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police in 2020.
Jeffries also led a bipartisan criminal justice reform effort that led to the passage of legislation in 2018 to restructure criminal procedures for certain drug-related offenses and to increase education and training funding for prisoners to reduce repeat offenders.
If Jeffries wins the November 30 leadership election, the Democrats will place party power directly with New Yorkers. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer represents the state of New York and Jeffries is based in New York City and represents parts of Brooklyn, including the historically black neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.
In 2020, Jeffries expanded his profile to become one of seven house managers in then-President Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial.
While a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jeffries has had at times strained relationships with some progressives who have questioned his ties to American business.
In a previous congressional election, there were rumors of a possible challenge for Jeffries from the party’s left wing. But he’s won re-election easily throughout, including this month’s midterm election with 72% of the vote.