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Hakeem Jeffries is the first Black lawmaker nominated for Speaker of the House

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

While Republicans grabbed headlines yesterday for not choosing a speaker of the House on the first ballot for the first time in 100 years, across the aisle, Democrats also had a historic day.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PETE AGUILAR: Madam Clerk, a Latino is nominating for leader of this chamber a Black man for the first time in our history.

(CHEERING)

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

That is Representative Pete Aguilar from California nominating fellow Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. Aguilar touted Jeffries' accomplishments, both in Washington and back home in Brooklyn, since he joined the house in 2013.

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AGUILAR: We are unified behind a speaker who is an unapologetic advocate for protecting and expanding our freedoms.

SUMMERS: Jeffries repeatedly earned the support of every member of his caucus - the first time a Democratic leader has done so since 2007. That's the year when they elected Nancy Pelosi. She led her party since 2003.

KELLY: Pelosi stepped down from her post after the midterms last year. And yesterday, she enthusiastically cast her vote for Jeffries. The symbolic torch-passing received a standing ovation from Democrats.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SUSAN COLE: Pelosi.

NANCY PELOSI: Happily, the honorable Hakeem Jeffries.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Happily, the honorable Hakeem Jeffries, she said there, and she blew a kiss in his direction.

SUMMERS: Many representatives noted the historic moment while casting their vote. This is Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHEILA JACKSON LEE: In the spirit of Martin Luther King, John Lewis and Elijah Cummings, I'm Houston proud to cast my vote for the next speaker - Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries.

KELLY: Nikema Williams also referenced her fellow Georgian, the late Congressman John Lewis.

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NIKEMA WILLIAMS: Madam Clerk, in the spirit of good trouble, Atlanta votes for Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries.

SUMMERS: Al Green of Texas...

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AL GREEN: And still I rise, and I proudly cast my vote on behalf of the enslaved people who built this Capitol. I cast my vote for the honorable Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries.

KELLY: The historic moment was also a joyful one for members, including Jeffries' fellow New Yorker, Yvette Clarke.

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YVETTE CLARKE: The bad, brilliant brother from Brooklyn...

(LAUGHTER)

CLARKE: ...Hakeem Jeffries.

COLE: Jeffries.

SUMMERS: But when it came time for Jeffries to cast his own vote, he kept it simple.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

COLE: Jeffries.

HAKEEM JEFFRIES: Jeffries.

(APPLAUSE)

KELLY: Representative Hakeem Jeffries ended the first day of the 118th Congress with more votes than any other nominee, Republican or Democrat - another note for the historians. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Justine Kenin
Justine Kenin is an editor on All Things Considered. She joined NPR in 1999 as an intern. Nothing makes her happier than getting a book in the right reader's hands – most especially her own.