When long-time Speaker and health care champion Nancy Pelosi recently announced the end of her tenure, a new Democratic leader was already poised to step up in the House of Representatives.
Today, House Democrats voted unanimously to elect a new leader, who will be designated as the Minority Leader when the 118th Congress convenes in the new year. On January 3rd, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) will officially take the title, becoming the first Black person in that role in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Jeffries will be joined by two other new leaders, who will take the no. 2 and no. 3 leadership positions in the House as long-time Pelosi allies step down along with her to make way for the next generation. Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (D-MA) will become the minority whip and Caucus Vice Chair Pete Aguilar (D-CA) will be the Caucus Chair.
Jeffries has represented New York’s 8th district, including parts of Brooklyn and Queens, since 2012. Though he represents a new generation of Congressional leaders, he is certainly not new to leadership and has spent years preparing for his new role.
Since 2019, he’s been Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, served on the the House Judiciary and the House Budget committees, and been a cosponsor of key legislation that will impact millions of lives, including the landmark First Step Act, a bipartisan criminal justice reform signed by President Trump in 2018 to reduce the prison population, decrease recidivism and lower crime through investment in education and economic opportunity.
When Jeffries officially takes the gavel on January 3rd, he will officially become the first black American to lead a majority party in Congress, breaking a new ceiling and following in the footsteps of Speaker Pelosi, who also made history by becoming the first woman to be Speaker of the House.
Jeffries is 30 years younger than Pelosi, and has already identified unifying the Democratic caucus as a key priority: “It’s going to be important to bring everyone together to continue to be unified, because we’ve got a common objective, which is to defend the priorities of President Biden … and take back the House.” Jeffries is a well known coalition builder, with both the skills to bring together opposition wings in his own party as well as to foster increased opportunity for bipartisan action with Republicans on some issues.
As we enter a divided Congress, potential bipartisan policy is top of mind for many leaders seeking to deliver policies that materially improve lives even as the shadow of 2024 elections will dominate the atmosphere in Congress.
Rep. Jeffries has said that he seeks to make “progress for all Americans across the country,” and committed “to find ways to work with Republicans whenever possible to get things done for the American people.” It may not be easy given Republicans’ plans over the coming year to use their majority status for endless investigations, delays, and stalling as well as to make cuts to key programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security and to repeal new laws that lower drug prices for seniors and enforce tax collection on wealthy tax cheats.
Jeffries is a long-time supporter of the Affordable Care Act and prescription drug reforms like Medicare negotiations. He has called healthcare access a right and noted that he supports a variety of policy options, including Medicare for All, as pathways to achieve universal access for every person in the United States.
HCAN welcomes Jeffries as a new, history-making leader and is eager to work with his team in the 118th Congress to continue to protect and expand quality, affordable health care, stop prescription drug corporations from price-gouging patients and protect key programs like the ACA, Medicare and Medicaid.