House speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to step down at the end of this year after being in the Democratic leadership for almost two decades. And Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, 51, is the favorite to step into her shoes. However, the transition won't be that smooth as it looks like at this point.
While Jeffries, N.Y., chair of the House Democratic Caucus, is the favorite, the debate over who will succeed Pelosi, California, could expose the deep divide between progressives and moderates. Future leaders of the Democratic party could differ in opinion on how to tackle the GOP, as they brace for the possibility of serious losses in the midterm elections.
Pelosi to Exit
Jeffries has become a favorite to replace Pelosi, 81, when she steps down at the end of the Congress this year after having served the Democratic leadership for over two decades. However, it won't be easy for Jeffries given the growing divide between the progressive and moderates.
Pelosi had led the House Democratic Caucus since 2003 and had also previously served as speaker from 2007 to 2011. However, in 2018, when the Democrats regained control of the House, she faced resistance. As many as 16 of her party members signed a letter opposing her escalation to the post of the speaker.
Despite the pushback, she still had broad support from most members. In December 2018, Pelosi came to agreement that would limit her career as House speaker for four years that was cheered by many of the moderates and newly elected members who had initially opposed her ascension.
The four years are now nearing and Pelosi will step down this year. Pelosi will step down at the end of the current Congress this year and the Democrats will look for a leadership that will define the party for years to come as the new generation takes over.
Jeffries Has the Support
In November 2020, Pelosi told reporters: "When that conversation took place, there was a move to put limits on the leadership and the chairs of committees. ... What I said then is whether it passes or not, I will abide by those limits that are there. I don't want to undermine any leverage I may have, but I made the statement." This was in keeping her promise to step down after four years as the House speaker.
As of now, Jeffries is the favorite among the party members as they want to see the leadership in able hands that will define the party's future.
Rep. Ro Khanna of California, a progressive who's been an influential liaison to the Biden White House, told The Washington Post that the next generation of leadership would have to listen intently to members.
The Postreported that members "overwhelmingly agreed" that Pelosi's successor should be "equally as historic" as her claim to the first female speakership.
"He's brilliant, he's smooth, but he is fearless," said a member supportive of Jeffries. "I mean, if we are fighting for something, I want Hakeem Jeffries on my side because he will go to the mat on an issue."
Jeffries is a member of the Progressive Caucus, but is friendly to the business community and protective of moderates in swing districts, the Post reports.
An attorney by profession, Jeffries has served as the US representative for New York's 8th congressional district since 2013. He has chaired the House Democratic Caucus since 2019.
Born in Brooklyn, New York to Laneda Jeffries, a social worker, and Marland Jeffries, a state substance-abuse counselor, he grew up in Crown Heights, Brooklyn.
Jeffries served as a clerk for Judge Harold Baer Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, then worked in the litigation department of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison before becoming assistant litigator for Viacom and CBS, where he worked on litigation stemming from the Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show controversy.
Jeffries is married to Kennisandra Arciniegas-Jeffries, a social worker and have two sons and live in Prospect Heights.