As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn all step down from leading the Democratic caucus, a new trio of Democrats prepares to step up: Representatives Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Katherine Clark of Massachusetts, and Pete Aguilar of California.
And Jeffries is aiming for the top.
Chairman of the House Democratic caucus, Jeffries is seen by many as Pelosi’s successor. If elected by House Democrats, he would be the first Black party leader in either the House or Senate.
Jeffries, 52, was born and raised in Brooklyn, near the district he now serves. After earning graduate public policy and law degrees, he went on to work in corporate law for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, a firm known for defending fossil fuel companies in at least 30 cases over the last five years.
Jeffries then worked for Viacom and CBS before getting elected to the New York State Assembly, serving from 2007 to 2012. Elected to Congress in 2013, Jeffries has, on one hand, been a prominent voice for liberal reform. As an assemblyman, Jeffries teamed up with then–state Senator Eric Adams to help pass a bill that banned police databases from storing the names of people detained but not arrested during stop-and-frisk procedures.
After an NYPD officer killed Eric Garner, Jeffries was one of the loudest voices on the Hill calling for an investigation. In 2015, Jeffries introduced a bill to make the use of a chokehold illegal under federal law. In 2018, Jeffries’s co-authored First Step Act passed, prompting the development of education, vocational, and mental health counseling programing for formerly incarcerated individuals.
On the other hand, Jeffries may give some progressives pause. In 2016, he criticized a unanimous U.N. resolution denouncing Israel’s settlement activity as a “flagrant violation” of international law. Jeffries argued that President Obama should have gone against the 14 nations who voted in favor of it and vetoed the resolution instead of abstaining.
Jeffries has also collected hundreds of thousands from industry donors embedded in investment, real estate, and lobbying. He has received the support of pro-Israel groups, including AIPAC, which has deliberately worked to tank Democratic candidates and support election denialists.
While insisting he is “progressive,” Jeffries finds a need to distinguish himself from the left. “I’m a Black progressive Democrat concerned with addressing racial and social and economic injustice with the fierce urgency of now,” Jeffries told The Atlantic last year. “There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism.”
Why he felt the need to distinguish himself from the left, and not also from other groups like corporate interests, is unclear.
Though Jeffries appears to be the party favorite, there are others vying for leadership positions—and some who may yet still announce their intentions. His win is not guaranteed, and it would be remiss to treat it as such.
“It has been my privilege to play a part in forging extraordinary progress for the American people,” she said during her speech. “I have enjoyed working with three presidents: achieving historic investments in clean energy with President George Bush; transforming health care reform with President Barack Obama; and forging the future, from infrastructure to health care to climate action, with President Joe Biden.”
Pelosi received multiple standing ovations during her speech from her fellow Democrats. Only a handful of Republicans joined in, a sign of how divided the House is and how chaotic it will be once the GOP takes over.
This is not the first time Pelosi has made her opinion of Trump clear. At the end of his 2020 State of the Union address, she stole his thunder by tearing up her copy of his speech. That was also the night of her highly memed, witheringly dismissive applause for the then president.
Pelosi said she will continue to represent her San Francisco district in the House even after leaving her leadership position. She has given no indication of whom she supports to succeed her, but the favorites include Representatives Hakeem Jeffries, Katherine Clark, and Pete Aguilar.
Republicans, meanwhile, will take control of the House when the new Congress is sworn in in January, having reached the 218-seat threshold for a majority overnight Wednesday, more than a week after Election Day.
Their majority will be razor-thin—only a handful of seats—and the party does not seem to be unified, with Kevin McCarthy facing opposition to his nomination for House speaker and moderate Republican Don Bacon saying he is willing to work with Democrats.
First on the agenda appears to be a new investigation into a laptop owned by Hunter Biden, son of President Joe Biden. Biden’s computer—which supposedly contains proof of fraudulent financial practices—has for years been a favorite line of attack for Republicans.
On Thursday morning, just hours after Republicans secured control of the House, Representatives Jim Jordan and James Comer held a press conference accusing the president of participating in his son’s business dealings. Jordan is expected to chair the House Judiciary Committee and could launch a probe into the younger Biden, and even the entire family.
They also managed to slip in an accusation of human trafficking against the president.
Republicans are reportedly also planning to investigate current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Department of Justice for their treatment of those arrested for involvement in the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
It is not known what the two men discussed, but considering Miller oversaw Trump’s most draconian immigration policies, spread election lies, and promoted articles from white nationalist groups, his presence on Capitol Hill does not bode well.
But there’s no guarantee the Republicans will be unanimous in these moves. McCarthy faced opposition to his nomination, and it’s unclear whether he will have the 218 votes necessary in the full chamber to become speaker.
Some moderate Republicans may cross the aisle to push back on their more extremist colleagues. Representative Don Bacon has already said he will work with Democrats to avoid gridlock and even put forward a more centrist speaker of the House.
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After leading the Democratic caucus for two decades, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is stepping down from leadership.
Pelosi made the announcement Thursday morning on the floor of the House, tracing her journey from child visitor to D.C. power broker. “I will never forget the first time I saw the Capitol. I was 6 years old,” she began. “Never did I think I’d go from homemaker to House Speaker.”
After detailing the way Congress has grown to be more representative of America, Pelosi made it official. “With great confidence in our caucus, I will not seek reelection to Democratic leadership in the next Congress.”
While Pelosi steps down from leadership, she said she will remain in Congress representing her San Francisco district. Earlier in the day, Puck News reported that Pelosi will likely serve an emeritus role, using her remaining time in Congress to oversee a leadership transition—one to come amid what’s poised to be a chaotic narrow GOP House majority.
The California representative first rose to leadership in 2001, being elected House minority whip. She was the first woman in U.S. history to hold the role. One year later, Pelosi was elected to lead the Democratic caucus—becoming the first woman to lead a major party in either congressional chamber.
Now the race to fill Pelosi’s shoes begins. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, 83, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, 82, both sit atop Democratic leadership. Punchbowl News reports that Hoyer will also be stepping down from leadership while still remaining in Congress, and will back New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries for party leader. Clyburn has not yet expressed his intentions.
Jeffries, along with Representatives Katherine Clark of Massachusetts and Pete Aguilar of California, are largely seen as Democrats preparing to step in as a new trio leading the caucus.
Jeffries, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus and chairman of the House Democratic caucus, has been laying the groundwork for years in preparing to replace Pelosi. Like Pelosi’s, his ascendance would make history, as Jeffries would be the first Black party leader in either the House or Senate.
This piece has been updated.
Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared at a CNN town hall on Wednesday night to discuss a lot of things—like his new book, his opinions on Donald Trump’s 2024 bid, the January 6 attack on our democracy.
But one clip caught the attention of the internet.
In a repeat of flygate—an uncomfortable two minutes of Pence seemingly unaware of a fly nesting on his head during a vice presidential debate—we have received even more evidence of Pence’s robotic nature.
At the town hall, a Black woman named Andrea Barber-Dansby asked Pence a question.
“Barbara, thank you. I represented Madison County in Congress for many years,” Pence starts with a grin.
“Andrea,” Barber-Dansby interjects with an admirably patient smile.
“It’s nice to see you,” Pence responds, as if he’s starting an entirely different conversation. He then takes a shockingly long pause, not unlike an automaton rebooting:
Pence’s town hall came amid his ongoing effort to both express disapproval for Trump yet still maintain favor with the GOP, while he sets the ground for his own potential 2024 candidacy.
We don’t know for sure whether Pence is even running. But robotically malfunctioning and struggling to remember someone’s name (and not even apologizing for it!) on live television is maybe not the best soft launch for a campaign. Rest assured, if Pence does proceed to run, we’ll likely see many more instances showcasing the kind of charisma and presence only a real human could display.
Mike Pence has made his stance clear: January 6 was one of the most harrowing days of his life, and also he will not cooperate with investigations of the attack.
Speaking in a CNN town hall Wednesday night, Pence told Jake Tapper that the January 6 riot was “the most difficult day of my public life.”
He explained he certified the votes for President Joe Biden—against the wishes of former President Donald Trump, who continues to falsely insist the 2020 election was rigged against him—because his main loyalties are to his God and the U.S. Constitution.
Pence also condemned Trump’s actions that day, although he stopped short of explicitly placing the blame for the riot with his former boss. “The president’s words and tweet that day were reckless,” Pence said. “They endangered my family and all the people at the Capitol.”
But, somewhat bafflingly, Pence also said he will not testify before the House January 6 committee. He argued that a congressional committee summoning a vice president would violate the separation of powers, and besides, Congress has “no right” to his testimony.
He expanded on that in an interview with CBS, explaining, “I must say … the partisan nature of the January 6 committee has been a disappointment to me.”
The committee hit back at Pence, accusing him of trying to drum up press for his forthcoming memoir. “It is disappointing that he is misrepresenting the nature of our investigation while giving interviews to promote his new book,” committee Chair Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney said in a statement.
Representative Adam Kinzinger, also a committee member, took particular offense with Pence’s comments, accusing him of waffling on his duty.
If so, then his wishy-washy stance makes sense: In both the interviews and his new book, he sought to distance himself from Trump—a bid to moderates and independents—but stopped short of agreeing to actively work against the former leader, risking alienating Trump’s rabidly loyal fan base.
Republicans finally clinched control of the House of Representatives, more than a week after Election Day, but it does not necessarily signal the end for Democrats.
The GOP reached the 218-seat threshold for a majority Wednesday night, but it is still a fight to the finish for the remaining six seats. Democrats hold 211 seats, and The New York Times predicts they will easily take two more with Mary Peltola in Alaska and Katie Porter in California.
Republicans are likely to get two more seats in California, and the last two seats are still too close to call, even with more than 90 percent of the votes counted. One of those races is Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, a Trump-backed election denier who was initially expected to easily win her race.
Either way, the GOP’s majority will be only a handful of seats—a far cry from the overwhelming “red wave” they had predicted before the midterms.
The question for Republicans now is whether they can stay unified in order to advance their agenda, namely blocking President Joe Biden’s agenda and launching a slew of rather petty investigations into policies they don’t like.
But it’s unclear if Representative Kevin McCarthy, who was nominated the party’s House leader, will be able to pull that off. He faced multiple opponents to his nomination and did not have a unanimous vote in his favor.
Democrats, meanwhile, have kept control of the Senate, and they might still have a chance of passing measures in the House if they are willing to deal with more moderate Republicans.
Nebraska Republican Representative Don Bacon warned CNN, “I perceive that there’s a small group that is trying to put us in gridlock.” He has already said he is willing to work with Democrats to avoid a deadlocked House and even find someone more centrist (than McCarthy) for speaker.
At least 32 transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been killed this year, the Human Rights Campaign said in a report published Wednesday, a few days before Transgender Day of Remembrance.
The HRC said that the toll could well be higher because anti-trans violence is often misreported or unreported altogether. Almost all the victims listed in the report are people of color.
“While the details of these cases differ, it is clear that fatal violence disproportionately affects transgender women of color—particularly Black transgender women,” the report said.
The data does not include people who died by suicide.
The toll is lower than the year before, which saw at least 57 trans and nonbinary people killed. But it comes amid a raft of anti-trans legislation throughout the United States.
State governments, particularly in Republican-led areas, have passed legislation seeking to ban trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams and prevent gender-affirming care in hospitals.
Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin unveiled a policy in September that requires trans and nonbinary students to get permission from their parents to use their correct pronouns or gendered bathrooms. Even if parents grant that permission, school faculty and staff can still refuse to honor a student’s gender.
Ohio’s House passed a bill in the spring prohibiting trans women and girls from playing alongside cisgender women and girls. The bill had originally included a horrifying measure that would require anyone suspected of being trans to undergo a genital inspection.
That portion was eventually removed from the bill, which could go before the state legislature for a final vote before the end of the year.
And Florida passed a law in March, nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay” law, that banned discussing sexual orientation or gender identity in the classroom.
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On Wednesday, the House passed the Speak Out Act, legislation that prohibits the use of nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, in cases of workplace sexual harassment or sexual assault. In other words, the bill empowers victims to speak out, share their stories, and seek justice without fear of retaliation for breaking previously signed NDAs.
The House passed the act 315–109—a decent showing of bipartisanship, yet a glaring mark on the 109 Republicans who voted against it. Over half the House Republican caucus voted against the bill, while the Senate passed it with unanimous consent in late September.
Thwarting the use of NDAs is important, as they have been weaponized to bind victims from speaking out against abusive employers or workplace superiors. That prevents victims from stopping potential future harm from being inflicted upon colleagues. Gretchen Carlson and Julie Rognisky, former Fox News employees and advocates for the bill, are familiar with this dynamic. Both bound by NDAs, the pair filed lawsuits against late Fox executive Roger Ailes, alleging sexual assault.
“The goal of the silencing mechanisms is to isolate you, to make you feel like you’re the only one that this is happening to, to protect predators by ensuring that nobody will know,” Roginsky told The 19th. “What survivors go through is something that has driven countless women out of the workforce because they have to choose between staying in an untenable situation silently or leaving their chosen careers.”
The Speak Out Act follows a related bill, signed by President Joe Biden in March, that prohibits companies from “resolving” claims of sexual assault and sexual harassment through arbitration. Such resolution processes allowed superiors to discreetly deal with cases away from public scrutiny, enabling them to get away with abusing employees at will.
Such bills are straightforwardly to the public’s benefit. They protect victims of sexual assault and harassment. They empower workers who are exploited by their employers. And they support the public’s interest: Job applicants become aware of the culture they could be joining; consumers of a company know what kind of culture they could be supporting.
And still, 109 Republicans found a way to vote against it.
A total of 37 Republicans senators voted Wednesday, in the year 2022, against advancing a bill that would enshrine marriage equality.
The Respect for Marriage Act, which applies to both same-sex and interracial marriage, would require that two people be considered married so long as their marriage was legal in the state in which it was performed. The act also repeals a 1996 law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, which has remained on the books despite being declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2015.
Many civil rights activists have warned that after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, same-sex marriage may be next on the chopping block.
The Senate voted 62–37 to advance the bill and is expected to invoke cloture—meaning decide to make the final vote—as soon as Thursday. The final vote could come by the end of the week or the end of the month.
The chamber had added an amendment to the bill clarifying certain protections for religious organizations. The bill needed 60 votes to succeed in the final vote, and with 12 Republicans joining the Democrats in advancing it, the legislation looks likely to pass.
It will then return to the House of Representatives before President Joe Biden can sign it into law.
The act already passed the House over the summer, although 156 voted against it—including a shockingly hypocritical “nay” vote from Representative Glenn Johnson, who attended his son’s same-sex wedding just a week later.
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