Who is Hakeem Jeffries, the Democrat poised to replace Nancy Pelosi?

Departing speaker of the House announced her resignation from party leadership after midterm elections

Hakeem Jeffries attends a meeting with fellow Democrats at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday. AP
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After two decades leading the Democrats in the US House of Representatives, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is laying down the gavel and resigning from party leadership.

The move comes after Republicans this week clinched control of the 435-seat chamber, and her departure has started a scramble for Democrats to find a new leader in the House.

One front runner has already emerged ― Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn quickly endorsed him after Ms Pelosi's emotional resignation speech on Thursday.

If Mr Jeffries is chosen, he would become the first black American to lead a party in Congress. Ms Pelosi shattered a glass ceiling when she became the first and only woman to serve as House speaker.

Who is Hakeem Jeffries?

The 52-year-old congressman has served in the fifth-highest rank of Democratic leadership since 2019, representing a New York congressional district that encompasses large parts of Brooklyn and a section of Queens.

Mr Jeffries was born and raised in Brooklyn, becoming a lawyer before going on to represent the eighth congressional district in 2013.

The representative has not shied away from his Brooklyn roots during his time in office. He once paid tribute on the House floor to renowned Brooklyn hip-hop artist, the late Notorious BIG, or "Biggie", who was born in Mr Jeffries' district.

He marked the 20th anniversary of Biggie's death in 2017 on the House floor, commemorating an artist he said represented "the classic embodiment of the American Dream".

He has served on the House Judiciary Committee throughout his time in Congress.

In January 2020, Ms Pelosi selected Mr Jeffries as one of seven House impeachment managers in the Senate trial of former president Donald Trump, where he helped to lead the case against Mr Trump's alleged attempt to leverage aid to Ukraine to incite in investigation against Joe Biden.

Throughout his career, he has prioritised affordable housing, criminal and social justice reforms, and the economy.

In the first half of President Joe Biden's term, Mr Jeffries was a leading Democrat as the party oversaw legislative victories, including the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the Chips and Science Act and the landmark Inflation Reduction Act.

Mr Jeffries also recently voted in favour of Washington's withdrawal from Syria in its current capacity.

He issued an "aye" vote on the failed Bowman Amendment, which aimed to insert in the National Defence Authorisation Act a prohibition of US involvement in Syria without congressional approval.

The congressman was among the key leaders to help pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, a police reform bill that followed 2020's nationwide protests after a policeman murdered Floyd.

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Updated: November 18, 2022, 5:59 PM
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