Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the incoming Democratic House leader, on Sunday downplayed suggestions that his members are prepared to support a moderate Republican to challenge Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a possibility,” Jeffries told ABC’s “This Week.”
McCarthy has secured the Republican nomination, but needs 218 votes to become speaker. After an underwhelming performance in last month’s midterm elections, with the GOP securing only a narrow majority in the House, McCarthy’s leadership is facing challenges from the right wing of his party. A vote is slated for Jan. 3.
Jeffries recognized McCarthy appears to be “having a difficult time” garnering the required support, but said Democrats would let the process play out.
“Well, we have to organize on our side and be prepared to hit the ground running on Jan. 3rd. They have to organize on their side. And we’ll see what happens,” he said.
The New York Democrat, who was picked to replace Nancy Pelosi after she announced she was stepping down from leadership after 20 years, said his members are focused on the transition and continuing their work with the White House and Senate Democrats.
Jeffries explained that Democrats will try to find common ground with Republicans where possible, but will also provide an opposing voice “particularly as it relates to any effort to go down this rabbit hole of unnecessary, unconscionable, unacceptable investigations of the administration.”
The opportunity for cooperation, though, would ultimately also depend on the GOP’s actions, he added.
“Are they going to double and triple down on the extremism that we’ve seen from people like Marjorie Taylor Greene? That would be unfortunate,” Jeffries said. “And if that happened, then there’s not going to be real, meaningful cooperation.”
Republicans have vowed to launch a series of investigations after retaking the House, including into the business dealings of President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, the handling of the COVID pandemic and the spending of the House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.
In the meantime, Senate Republicans have already started attacking Jeffries. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) called him an “election denier” over his past comments criticizing Trump’s win in the 2016 election.
Jeffries said his “track record speaks for itself.”
“I supported the certification of Donald Trump’s election. I attended his inauguration, even though there were many constituents and others across the country pushing me and others to do otherwise, and found ways to work with the Trump administration, being the lead Democrat in negotiating historic criminal justice reform,” he told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos.