New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the likely incoming House Democratic leader, said Sunday that he anticipates his party will be united in a new minority even amid policy disagreements.
Jeffries, a longtime allay of outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has sometimes been at odds with members of his party’s left flank. However, in an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he boasted of strong relationships with both liberals and moderates.
“Well, I have great respect for Rep. [Alexandria] Ocasio-Cortez and every single member of the House Democratic caucus, from Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to Rep. Josh Gottheimer, my good friend, and all points in between,” Jeffries told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“The thing about us, Jake, is that while we can have some noisy conversations at times about how we can make progress for the American people, what we have seen is that under the leadership of Speaker Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Jim Clyburn, we have constantly been able to come together, time and time again,” Jeffries added, referring to the outgoing House majority leader and majority whip.
In the past, Jeffries has argued that others in the party enforce a difference between “progressive Democrats and hard-left democratic socialists,” and he has embraced the former label.
“I’m a Black progressive Democrat concerned with addressing racial and social and economic injustice with the fierce urgency of now. That’s been my career, that’s been my journey, and it will continue to be as I move forward for however long I have an opportunity to serve. There will never be a moment where I bend the knee to hard-left democratic socialism,” he told The Atlantic last year.
Jeffries, who was first elected in 2012, is currently running unopposed to be leader of the House Democrats after Pelosi, Hoyer and Clyburn all said last week they wouldn’t seek to reclaim their positions in the conference’s leadership team. (Clyburn is running for the No. 4 spot in the intraparty elections set for Nov. 30.)
In a speech on Thursday, Pelosi, who like her deputies has been in leadership for years, hailed a “new generation.”
Looking to a House GOP majority come January, Jeffries said on CNN that he would be open to working with Republicans but would not hesitate to confront what he labeled as “extremism.”
House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy has promised to pursue oversight of the Biden White House while challenging Democrats’ past two years of unified rule. Jeffries told Tapper that while he hadn’t “recently” spoken with McCarthy, “I do have, I think, a much warmer relationship with Steve Scalise,” the minority whip.
McCarthy, appearing on Fox News on Sunday, said his slim majority will need to be unified to achieve its priorities, including focusing on China and the southern border.
“We need to work as one because if that continues to move forward, all the investigations we asked to happen, the securing the border, the stopping the movement, none of that can the move forward,” he said.
Jeffries, for his part, said on CNN: “[I] look forward to working whenever and wherever possible … with the entire House Republican conference and the leadership team to find common ground to get things done for everyday Americans to make progress.”
“But, of course, we will fiercely and vigorously oppose any attempts at Republican overreach and any Republican extremism,” he said. “And I’m hopeful that the Republican leadership will take lessons away from the rejection of extremism by the American people all across the land, and not double- and triple-down on it in the next Congress.”