Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries is poised to become the next leader of House Democrats — and the first Black leader of either party in Congress — as lawmakers gather behind closed doors to vote Wednesday on Capitol Hill.

Jeffries is so far running unopposed to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who announced before Thanksgiving that she would step back from leadership after two decades as the chamber’s top Democrat.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday ahead of the vote, Jeffries said it was “premature” to conclude what he would do differently than Pelosi “without having those challenges in front of us where decisions will have to be made.”

“No one can do it the way that Nancy Pelosi has done it. She’s an extraordinary leader for the ages. And the greatest speaker of all time,” he continued.

What You Need To Know

  • Brooklyn-native Hakeem Jeffries is so far running unopposed to replace Rep. Nancy Pelosi as the top Democrat in the U.S. House.

  • Jeffries said growing up in Brooklyn taught him how to confront adversity. “But that adversity makes you stronger and prepared,” he said

  • Looking to the 2024 election, where Democrats hope to regain control of the House, Jeffries said there are many seats “Republicans are renting, not owning”

  • A vote from the party caucus is expected Wednesday

If Jeffries is selected to succeed Pelosi, Democrats would turn the page from one historic chapter to the next: the first female Speaker of the House replaced by the first Black person to lead a party on Capitol Hill — this, in a building constructed in part by slave labor.

“Its my goal to make sure I am who I am,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries, 52, was first elected to Congress in 2012. He has served as chair of the House Democratic Caucus for the past four years.

Brooklyn’s Growing Influence

Jeffries was raised in Crown Heights and is a graduate of New York City public schools.

He said growing up in Brooklyn taught him how to confront adversity.

“That was certainly the case for me coming of age as someone from Crown Heights in the midst of the crack-cocaine epidemic,” he said. “But that adversity makes you stronger and prepared.”

If he ascends to the top job, the borough of Brooklyn will see its power in Congress grow. Brooklynite Chuck Schumer is already the Democratic leader in the Senate.

Jeffries says he has received no pushback on the prospect of a concentration of power in his native borough.

“The House is the House. The Senate is the Senate,” he said.

Minority Leader

Democrats lost their House majority in the midterm elections earlier this month, meaning Jeffries would become the House minority leader.

Asked about his relationship with current the Republican leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who is running for House Speaker, Jeffries was short: “I serve with him in the United States House of Representatives.”

Top House Republicans have announced their plans to launch a variety of investigations once they control committee gavels, including looking into the family of President Joe Biden.

“House Democrats will strongly defend President Biden, his administration and his family against extreme out-of-control attacks from the other side of the aisle if that’s the road Republicans choose to travel,” he said.

Democratic Losses in New York

While a red wave did not materialize nationally in the midterm elections, Republicans did manage to flip four congressional seats held by Democrats in New York.

On Tuesday, Jeffries reiterated his call for an “after-action report” on what went wrong in the Empire State. And he again sidestepped a question about whether Jay Jacobs should remain as the chair of the state’s Democratic Party.

“We can evaluate who is appropriate to lead the New York State Democratic Party moving forward, but only after we have a comprehensive after-action report,” he said.

Looking to 2024, Jeffries said there are many districts in New York and across the country where Democrats can gain ground. He described them as seats “Republicans are renting, not owning.”

On the prospect of Biden seeking re-election, Jeffries said, “It’s my expectation that he’ll be back on the ballot in 2024 as a strong candidate who will secure re-election.”

Crime Messaging

In New York during the midterms, Republicans hammered Democrats over crime, particularly in New York City.

Jeffries dismissed the notion that Mayor Eric Adams’ focus on crime during his 2021 bid for Gracie Mansion hurt Democrats.

But he also acknowledged the efforts undertaken by Republicans to hit Democrats on crime “clearly” had an impact. He accused the GOP of mischaracterizing his party’s position on crime and public safety.

“We will not let that occur in 2024,” he said.

Jeffries said Democrats should talk about their efforts to crack down on gun violence, push for improved relationships between police and the communities they serve, and advocate for programs to keep young Americans away from violence.

A ‘Diverse’ Caucus

Jeffries frequently touts the diversity of the House Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill - though admits that that can lead to “noisy conversations” on policy.

Jeffries has, at times, been critical of the left flank of the party.

He said that as House Democratic leader, he looks forward to “bringing all parts of the Democratic coalition together from the center to the center left to the left.”