In the process of becoming the Democratic leader in the House, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is succeeding one of the party’s icons: former Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Jeffries, who joined Congress midway through Pelosi’s two-year term as House Democratic leader, said Pelosi would “go down in history as the greatest speaker of all time.”
Now, with him in office, some who know Jeffries expect the Brooklyn congressman to be handled slightly differently than his long-term predecessor.
what you need to know
- Rep. Hakeem Jeffries’ former chief of staff said he expects the Brooklyn Democrat’s leadership style to be “more bottom-up and more inclusive” than Nancy Pelosi
- House Democrats unanimously chose Jeffries to lead them.But it’s unclear whether the caucus will be unified in the long run – especially if they will support a majority in 2024
- Some on the left are skeptical of Jeffries, criticizing him for not signing the Green New Deal resolution and helping create a PAC to defend incumbent Democrats
- If he becomes Speaker, Jeffries will make history as the first person of color to hold the role. Asked if the White House was something he would accept, Jeffries said: “No.”
“Her leadership style is more top-down, and I think Hakeem’s leadership style will be more bottom-up, more inclusive. Consensus-building, very deliberate, but decisive,” said Jeffries’ first chief of staff. Cedric Grant said.
Tom Reed, a New York Republican former congressman who worked with Jeffries on the legislation, agreed.
“I definitely don’t think he’s going to be as heavy as a top-down. I think he’s going to seek advice,” he said. “I think he’ll surround himself with members he trusts, and that will dissipate some of the power.”
Jeffries has already hinted at a collaborative approach.
In his November letter announcing his candidacy for Democratic leadership, he promised to “empower” caucus members and ensure everyone “has a real seat at the legislative table.”
In an interview with NY1 in early January, Jeffries elaborated on how he plans to lead, saying that as the party goes through a period of transition, “it will necessarily require a team effort from the House Democratic Caucus, not just leading individuals, To be able to take over the baton. “
Unify Diverse Core Group
House Democrats unanimously chose Jeffries to lead them. But whether the caucus can remain unified in the long run is unclear.
If Democrats win back their majority within two years, they’ll have the power to set the House’s agenda, and there will likely be competing pressures from within to shape it — including from the left of the coalition, with which Jeffries has sometimes A conflict arises in a complex relationship.
Asked in November whether Jeffries was progressive enough to appease the so-called squad and the party’s progressive end, Rep. Jamal Bowman said: “There will be some bickering and some dialogue.”
“But that’s what’s supposed to happen, right? That’s what democracy is about. That’s the point of the Democrats,” he continued.
Bowman, who represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester counties, is a member of the squad and is backed by the progressive group Justice Democrats.
He also excitedly accepted a new job from his fellow New Yorker.
“I’ve had many conversations with Hakeem about racial justice. We’re on the same page. On economic justice — we’re on the same page. Universal child care — we’re on the same page,” Bowman said.
But others on the left are skeptical.
Climate activists in the progressive Sunrise Movement condemned Jeffries for not signing the Green New Deal resolution along with other New York City congressional Democrats.
They question how seriously Jeffries is taking the climate fight, even though the League of Conservation Voters gave Jeffries a lifetime score of 96 percent on their most recent national environmental scorecard.
Some have criticized him for helping to create political action committees (PACs) to support incumbents in primaries, seeing it as a blow to progressive challengers.
“I think it’s good for him that he spends more time focusing on fighting Republicans than fighting people in his own party,” said Tyler Hack of New York’s Sunrise campaign group. benefit.”
Jeffries hasn’t shied away from fighting back, telling The Atlantic in 2021, “I will never kneel to far-left democratic socialism.”
However, Jeffries said it would be incorrect to say he was “following the left wing of the party”.
“When asked to respond, I sometimes responded without hesitation. But it was never gratuitous in the first place,” he said. “However, if I’m asked to respond, sometimes I respond. I respond in a way that fits my upbringing.”
When ideological differences emerge among Democrats, Jeffries may have to rule with tougher tactics to force a consensus — especially if the House is low on votes, Reade said.
“I think he might have to move more towards that ‘top-down’ style of leadership,” Reed said. “But, you know, time will tell.”
As he rose through the ranks, so did Jeffries’ fundraising prowess.
As a symbolic opposition House backbencher, he typically raises less than $2 million per campaign, according to data compiled by campaign finance watchdog OpenSecrets.org.
That total more than doubled under his tenure as Democratic caucus chairman. During the last campaign cycle, Jeffries raised nearly $6 million.
That total still pales in comparison to Pelosi, who raised nearly $25 million in the 2022 cycle.
Sarah Bryner, director of research at OpenSecrets.org, said Jeffries’ fundraising efforts are likely to increase now that he holds the top job.
“I predict by 2024 we’ll see all the chickens come home,” she said, arguing that his fundraising should start aligning with “everyone who has traditionally been in these roles.”
speaker? president? What’s next?
In the near future, one of Jeffries’ main goals as Democratic leader is to regain control of the House of Representatives by 2024. Democrats only need to flip a handful of seats, and there are many potential options at home in New York.
If successful, Jeffries would be expected to become speaker of the House of Representatives. But what about the presidency?
At least one close ally of Jeffries, Rep. Gregory Meeks of Queens, has raised that possibility.
“I would like him to remain speaker as long as he wants to,” Meeks said. “But if he decides he needs to go to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue at some point, I don’t think there’s any cap on Hakeem Jeffries.”
Meeks called Jeffries a “unique” talent “in the same way Barack Obama was a unique talent.” But, Meeks said, he thinks Jeffries should be speaker.
Asked if he would like to be in the White House, Jeffries said: “No.”
“My focus now is to do the best I can in the position I have held to ensure we achieve results for the American people, implement our successful legislative agenda set out in the last Congress, and work closely with President Biden to ensure he is re-elected, And do everything in our power to take back control of the House in 2024,” Jeffries continued.
Does that take it off the table entirely? “Yes,” Jeffries replied.
Still, leading the House one day is a very important question.
Since 1789, only 55 people have served as Speaker.
Jeffries will become the first person of color and the first to represent a New York City district as speaker, a remarkable climb to consolidate power for the sons of Brooklyn who won their first election 16 years ago.
This story is the final installment in a four-part series that traces Jeffreys’ path to power.First story about Jeffreys’ Brooklyn roots can be found herePart 2 of Jeffries’ journey from election loss to House Democratic leader can be found here. Part III on Jefferies’ drive to reform the criminal justice system can be found here.