Could House Minority Leader Jeffries become House Speaker after McCarthy’s downfall?

“[Hakeem Jeffries] has been outstanding as the Democratic leader,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., told theGrio.

As Republicans navigate who they will nominate as their next House speaker after the ousting of Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., House Democrats are making it clear their only vote will be for House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.

Jeffries, the first Black American to serve as leader of a major party in Congress, “has been outstanding as the Democratic leader,” U.S. Rep. Glenn Ivey, D-Md., told theGrio.

US House Minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) speaks during a press conference at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on September 29, 2023. The US government began on September 28 informing workers of an impending shutdown that could see millions of federal employees and military personnel temporarily sent home or working without pay, unless Congress reaches a funding deal. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

“We voted for him at the beginning of the Congress in January 15 times and got all 212 Democratic votes every time. Unfortunately, Kevin McCarthy pulled it out at the end,” said the congressman.

Ivey said McCarthy “was a disaster as the [House] speaker.” He added, “The only thing that we’ve really gotten accomplished during this conference has occurred when Hakeem was able to step in.”  

As a government shutdown was quickly approaching last week, Ivey said it was Jeffries who stepped in to save the day.

“McCarthy kept trying to appease the right-wing extremists in his House Republican caucus. When he realized that wouldn’t work, he turned to Hakeem, and Hakeem got it done in like three hours,” he recalled.

On Tuesday, in an unprecedented move, House members voted 216-210 to oust McCarthy from his position as House Speaker, making him the first person to be booted from that position in American history.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., filed a resolution on Monday to remove McCarthy from the speakership. The hard-right conservative said he did so because the former House speaker allegedly made a deal with President Joe Biden on legislation to provide more aid to Ukraine amid its war against Russia in order to pass a continuing resolution to avert the shutdown.

In this April 22, 2021, file photo, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., speaks during his weekly press briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)

Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who was named by McCarthy as speaker pro-tempore in his absence, will temporarily fulfill the duties of House speaker until the party’s slim majority in the House elects a new leader.

When McCarthy was elected speaker by the Republican conference, McHenry, a 10-term congressman, was included in a shortlist to replace the House speaker in the event of an emergency.

“It was kind of ironic that there were Republicans yesterday hoping that Democrats would save Kevin McCarthy because we made it clear that we think Hakeem Jeffries would be a far better selection,” Ivey told theGrio.

“McCarthy’s speakership has just been a chaotic disaster from the beginning…that’s why he was the first one in the history of the United States to be removed.”

Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Calif., told theGrio that the McCarthy fallout “would not ever happen to Hakeem Jeffries.”

In January, Jeffries and McCarthy were in a close race to win House speaker following the exit of longtime House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. However, McCarthy won the last round of votes, earning 216 votes to Jeffries’ 210.

Kamlager-Dove told theGrio, “When we have our next round of speaker votes, I will certainly vote in favor of Hakeem Jeffries.”

While Democrats do not have the numbers to hand Jeffries the speaker’s gavel, they are hopeful that they will win back the majority in next year’s election. In doing so, Jeffries would become the first Black person to serve as House speaker.

U.S. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) delivers remarks after House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was elected Speaker of the House in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 07, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

“My belief is that we will be successful in 2024, and Hakeem Jeffries will be the speaker,” said Kamlager-Dove. “He has proven himself as someone who is resilient, forthright and inspiring. He has unified our caucus, and he has the respect of our caucus.”

Rep. Ivey told theGrio that, at this time, House Republicans are engaged in a “civil war.”

“Hopefully, they can resolve that and pick a speaker who’s going to have at least basic competence in trying to manage the governing requirements of the House,” he said.

The congressman believes the best candidate will be able to “work with Democrats to find common ground to get legislation that the American people need.”

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