House Democrats Elect New Leaders As Pelosi’s Reign Formally Ends

(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
Font Size:

House Democrats unanimously voted in New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries as their new party leader, making Wednesday the first day in nearly 20 years that California Rep. Nancy Pelosi did not sit atop the caucus.

Jeffries will serve as House Minority Leader in the 118th Congress, while Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark was elected Minority Whip. California Rep. Pete Aguilar will serve as Caucus Chair. While the former top two Democrats, Pelosi and Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, will remain in Congress, they will not serve in leadership. Former number three, James Clyburn of South Carolina, is running against Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline for Assistant Democratic Leader, the number four leadership position.

“It’s a solemn responsibility that we are all inheriting,” Jeffries said Tuesday ahead of the 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.” (RELATED: Top House Democrats Decline To Say If They Would Support Pelosi As Leader After She Announces Reelection)

Collectively known as the “New Three,” Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar served in the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-ranking leadership positions during the 117th Congress. Speculation about Jeffries’ accession to party leader began early in the 117th Congress, as Pelosi said in 2018 that she would serve no more than two more terms as leader.

During their first joint press conference, the New Three accused Republicans of kowtowing to extremists.

What we’re fighting against is this MAGA extremism,” Aguilar said. “There’s folks who, on the other side of the aisle, go to white nationalist conferences, come from the far right corners of the country.”

Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn have all served in House Democratic leadership since 2003, with Pelosi and Hoyer in the two top positions the entire time. Clyburn ascended to the number three position in 2007.

Clyburn wrote to colleagues that he planned to remain in leadership to ensure southern representation and provide support to Jeffries, Clark and Aguilar. However, Cicilline announced Wednesday he would challenge Clyburn for the position, citing what he said is lack of LGBTQ representation in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party.

House Democrats postponed the assistant leader vote to Thursday. Clyburn spoke at the Wednesday funeral of Lavel “Tyler” Davis Jr., a University of Virginia football player who was shot and killed by a teammate earlier in November.