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US Democrats choose first black House leader

2022-12-01 HKT 00:55
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  • Hakeem Jeffries will lead Democrats in the US House of Representatives. File photo: AP
    Hakeem Jeffries will lead Democrats in the US House of Representatives. File photo: AP
Hakeem Jeffries was elected on Wednesday to become the Democratic Party's top leader in the US House of Representatives beginning in January, making him the first Black American 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.

Shortly before the election result was announced, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said: "Hakeem Jeffries' elevation as House Democratic leader is a turning point in the history of the United States." Both men come from New York City's Brooklyn borough.

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.

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 a national debt that now exceeds US$31.3 trillion. Tough new border security initiatives also rank high on the Republican agenda that Democrats will do battle over.

While they made tackling inflation the centerpiece of their 2022 congressional campaigns, Republicans, since narrowly winning control of the House, have said little about that subject. (Reuters)

US Democrats choose first black House leader