Hakeem Jeffries Jumps Into Race for Dem Caucus Chair
Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) announced this morning that he will run to be the new Democratic Caucus Chair. In his letter to colleagues, Jeffries touts his role as one of the Co-Chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee during the 115th Congress as part of his credentials. His bid is complicated by the already announced bids of fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Hispanic Caucus member and current Caucus Vice Chair Congresswoman Linda Sánchez (D-CA). “The values I bring to the House Democratic Caucus Chair position are anchored in my upbringing in a working-class, union household in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood,” Jeffries wrote in a letter to colleagues. The previous Caucus Chair was NY Congressman Joe Crowley, who was unseated in the primary by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Jeffries said in his letter that in order for Dems to stay in charge, “we must act aggressively on a bold legislative agenda and consistently message to the American people what we are doing to improve their quality of life.” He goes on to say, “If we fail to adequately communicate, our legislative efforts will fall victim to the type of mischaracterizations that took place when Barack Obama was President during the 111th Congress. We cannot allow that to happen again.” He says it will be critical for House Democrats to keep “pressing our case as the tip of the spear against the right-wing onslaught in this country.” “He writes, “We want to move the country forward. They want to turn back the clock. We want to bring people together. They are trying to tear us apart. We stand for the people. They stand for the privileged few.” Read the full letter below.
November 8, 2018
Congratulations on your recent re-election!
I write to respectfully request your support in connection with my candidacy for the position of Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
During the 115th Congress, it has been an honor to work as one of the Co-Chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (“DPCC”). Along with Cheri Bustos, David Cicilline and the entire House Democratic Caucus, we developed and delivered a clear message to the nation about our values and priorities. In this regard, the DPCC worked closely with the Congressional Progressive Caucus, New Dems, Blue Dogs, Congressional Black Caucus, Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, Women’s Caucus and LGBT Equality Caucus to forge an early consensus around an economic agenda anchored in good-paying jobs and strong economic growth.
Thereafter, House Democrats helped defeat attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, branded the GOP tax scam as the most unpopular so-called tax cut in American history and elevated the importance of healthcare as a potent electoral issue. Together, we delivered a strong "For The People" closing argument to America that was simple and authentic to who we are as public servants. We emphasized an agenda focused on lower healthcare costs, increased pay for everyday Americans and cleaning up corruption in Washington. It worked.
It has been a great privilege to work with you and the entire Caucus on this member-driven messaging and policy effort over the last two years. Now that the midterm election is over and we have successfully completed the mission, I look forward to the possibility of continuing my work as a member of the House Democratic leadership team. My candidacy for Caucus Chair is anchored in three principles.
Our team is strongest when everyone is on the playing field.
House Democrats singularly represent the gorgeous mosaic of the American people. The members of our Caucus are the most diverse set of lawmakers in our nation’s history. Our racial, religious, gender, ideological, sexual orientation and regional diversity is a great strength. However, it can only be unleashed if committees are fully empowered to work their will and a panoply of perspectives, experiences and ideas are embraced and harmonized.
The wisdom, experience, brilliance and creativity of the Caucus is a phenomenal asset that I have witnessed firsthand in my role as DPCC Co-Chair. For this reason, it is essential that every member has meaningful policymaking and public engagement opportunities regardless of length of service. In that regard, the Caucus Chair position can be used to facilitate policy collaboration in a manner designed to ensure that all members thrive, diversity of thought is respected and our majority is successful.
Learn from the past, succeed in the future.
We have seized the majority; now we must keep it. There is an unconventional President in the Oval Office who dominates the news cycle with his outrageous claims, name-calling and falsehoods.
Undoubtedly, he will try to use the House Democratic Caucus as a foil to explain his shortcomings and inability to lead.
Message discipline helped carry us into the majority. To stay in charge, we must act aggressively on a bold legislative agenda and consistently message to the American people what we are doing to improve their quality of life. If we fail to adequately communicate, our legislative efforts will fall victim to the type of mischaracterizations that took place when Barack Obama was President during the 111th Congress. We cannot allow that to happen again. I hope to use the Caucus Chair position to help us govern with unity, communicate with simplicity and ensure that we remain in the majority.
The best defense is a good offense.
During the 116th Congress, it will be critical for House Democrats to keep pressing our case as the tip of the spear against the right-wing onslaught in this country. We want to move the country forward. They want to turn back the clock. We want to bring people together. They are trying to tear us apart. We stand for the people. They stand for the privileged few.
Our success in the midterm election shows that the American people want change. In the context of a divided government, we must try to shape public sentiment through strong legislative action and meaningful oversight. In doing so, we can create an environment to get good things done and stop bad things from happening. With this in mind, the weekly Caucus meetings should be used as the huddle, where we collectively decide the plays to be executed to advance the ball down the field.
In conclusion, the values I bring to the House Democratic Caucus Chair position are anchored in my upbringing in a working-class, union household in a tough Brooklyn neighborhood. The district I serve is one of the most diverse in the country, where more than three dozen languages are spoken and forging consensus is critical to effective representation. I am a pro-union progressive Democrat with substantial experience as a private sector attorney. Through my personal and professional journey, I am equipped to represent all of the philosophical wings of the wonderfully diverse House Democratic Caucus.
Over the next few weeks, I look forward to speaking with you about how House Democrats can create a better future for all Americans. Thank you in advance for your consideration of my candidacy.