The seemingly endless cycle of House Republicans torturing now Majority Speaker Kevin McCarthy capped on the 15th vote over the course of a week on Capitol Hill, a record in American history. House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries took the podium to dole out congratulations, but very little went to his colleagues across the aisle. 

Jeffries outlined the Dems’ agenda over the next two years with a stylized “fit for a rap battle” list that literally went from A to Z. Biggie Smalls would likely be proud.

“House Democrats will always put American values over autocracy. Benevolence over bigotry. The Constitution over the cult. Democracy over demagogues. Economic opportunity over extremism. Freedom over fascism,” said Jeffries.

He celebrated ethnic and religious diversity, and described the “American dream” as a promise for hard-working citizens to live comfortably with grace and dignity. He said that Democrats believed in a country for everyone and a peaceful transfer of power.
“On this first day, I do not pretend to answer that question on behalf of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but we do extend our hand of partnership to you and want to make clear that we extend and intend to try to find common ground whenever and wherever possible on behalf of the American people,” said Jeffries. “Not as Democrats, not as Republicans, not as independents, but as Americans.”

House Democrats nominated Jeffries nine times and cemented his position as Minority Speaker last year after he succeeded former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which he humble-bragged about in his speech. 

“The fact that I’m able to stand up here today is another data point in that narrative,” Jeffries said about the significance of his role as the first Black Speaker. “I was born in Brooklyn Hospital, raised in a working class neighborhood in Crown Heights, grew up in the Cornerstone Baptist Church. Started off in the cradle roll department, somehow survived the violence of the crack cocaine epidemic and wound up here in the United States Congress as the highest-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. America, truly a land of opportunity.”

Meanwhile, the contentious majority speaker vote, sowed by a decades-long power struggle between McCarthy and far-right members, culminated this past weekend when U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers from Alabama was ready to throw hands at U.S. Rep Matt Gaetz from Florida on the Congress floor. 

Jeffries, Democratic Whip Katherine Clark and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar were critical early on of House Republicans’ not being able to “organize themselves” and deliberately holding up Congress, since business can’t be conducted until both speaker votes are completed. This was the first time in a century that Congress had been delayed.

Plenty of Dem Congress members from New York shared the sentiment.

U.S. Rep Adriano Espaillat said the House Republicans couldn’t “form a union and govern.” He belittled McCarthy as a “selfish leader only concerned with himself and not the American people.” 

“Last week’s chaotic vote for Kevin McCarthy has shown the country that House Republicans are not only embarrassingly dysfunctional, but supremely unprepared and unqualified to lead,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres. “Now, we have a speaker who’s beholden to a group of extremists in his own party who are more interested in grandstanding than governing, and I fear it could cause significant damage to our constituents, this Congress and our entire country.”

Torres added that George Santos, the Republican congressmember from Long Island who blatantly lied about his background and résumé, is a “disgrace” and should have never been sworn in with mounting complaints and investigations of fraud. “He is a habitual liar who knowingly misrepresented every facet of his personal and professional life in order to deceive voters and reach elected office,” said Torres.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting https://bit.ly/amnews1.

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