Rep. Hakeem Jeffries on Monday formally declared his bid to remain chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, a position he’s expected to easily keep that would cement his role in the top tier of leadership in the new Congress.
The New York Democrat is expected to run unopposed and has wide support across the caucus. As the No. 5 House Democrat, Jeffries would remain a powerful voice in the party as members look to execute the agenda of President-elect Joe Biden — while securing a position that would allow him to quickly ascend the leadership ranks when Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her top two lieutenants — all in their 80s — ultimately step aside.
“From day one, House Democrats must act decisively to crush the virus, provide transformational relief to everyday Americans and revive the economy. At the same time, we must use our majority to address racial injustice, confront the climate crisis, defend the Dreamers, expand access to high-quality, affordable health care, fix our crumbling infrastructure and end the era of voter suppression,” Jeffries wrote in a letter to members Monday.
If elected again as caucus chairman, Jeffries and the rest of the Democratic leadership will be quickly forced to reckon with the raw ideological tensions that have surfaced since the party’s unexpected string of losses in Tuesday’s election. Democrats will retain control of the House, but have lost a net five seats — losses that are expected to grow as more races are called, prompting some tense discussions in the caucus between its centrist and left factions.
Jeffries’ profile has grown in recent years, appearing on the national stage as one of the Democrats’ impeachment managers in their case against President Donald Trump, as well as his role in the policing reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s killing this summer.
Jeffries has also led the caucus during the many months since Democrats moved nearly all their meetings and interactions online, hosting a total of 60 caucus-wide calls since the start of the pandemic.
The New York Democrat is also a prolific fundraiser, pulling in $8.5 million in the most recent cycle.
Jeffries’ reelection as caucus chair could help position him to run for higher leadership positions in the future. Jeffries is often floated as a potential successor to Pelosi, which would make him the first Black speaker. Pelosi had once committed that this upcoming Congress would be her final term as speaker, though she has declined to answer questions about her future in recent weeks.
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