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House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress

House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress
© Bonnie Cash

For Rep. Pete AguilarPeter (Pete) Ray AguilarHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Democrats nominate Pelosi to keep Speakership MORE, the second time was the charm.

The California Democrat on Thursday won the race to become vice chair of the party's caucus in the next Congress, defeating Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Lawmakers push for improved diabetes care through tech advancements Senate passes bill to secure internet-connected devices against cyber vulnerabilities MORE (D-Ill.) for the No. 6 leadership slot in a 148 to 82 vote.

Aguilar, 41, will replace Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkFive House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last MORE, a Massachusetts Democrat who had defeated Aguilar for the vice chair spot in 2018. Clark vacated the position to become assistant Speaker next year, a seat she won on Wednesday in a race against Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (D-R.I.).

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Aguilar’s victory ensures that the Democrats’ leadership team in the 117th Congress will feature at least one member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), which had been a significant part of his pitch heading into the vote. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) had been the CHC’s prominent leadership figure for the last four years, both as head of the party’s campaign arm and most recently as assistant Speaker. He’s leaving the House next year after winning a seat in the Senate.

In the current Congress, Aguilar served as whip for the moderate New Democrat Coalition, a pro-business group that advocates for bipartisanship, and he also sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

As vice chair, he'll face the challenge of bridging the divide between party's centrist and liberal wings, which have been feuding after a lackluster performance for House Democrats at the polls this month.

In a statement issued after his victory, Aguilar acknowledged the importance of easing those tensions if Democrats are to be successful in pushing their ambitious legislative agenda.

"My top priority as a member of this leadership team will be to help unite our Caucus to meet the most pressing needs of the communities we represent, including providing much-needed resources to help the American people navigate the coronavirus crisis," he said.

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Kelly, 64, was vying to be the third member of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) featured on the Democrats’ leadership team in the 117th Congress, after Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.) and Caucus Chairman Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Nominated for another Speaker term, Pelosi says it's her last Katherine Clark secures No. 4 leadership spot for House Democrats MORE (D-N.Y.) won reelection to those spots in voting conducted Wednesday. Both Clyburn and Jeffries ran unopposed.

In a year when Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisBiden transition adds new members to coronavirus task force Club for Growth to launch ad blitz in Georgia to juice GOP turnout Biden's political position is tougher than Trump's MORE (D-Calif.) made history as the first Black woman elected vice president, Kelly had argued the importance of the Democrats’ House leadership team featuring a woman of color. Yet with two CBC members already on board — and no members of the CHC — that message became a tougher sell in a caucus that’s historically gone out of its way to promote ethnic diversity in its top ranks.

Democrats on Thursday also elected a quartet of members as the four equal co-chairs of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC): Reps. Debbie DingellDeborah (Debbie) Ann DingellGM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards Ex-AG Holder urges GOP to speak against Trump efforts to 'subvert' election results McEnany disputes any Trump 'advocacy' with invite to Michigan lawmakers MORE (Mich.), Ted LieuTed W. LieuHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Mark Cuban asks voters to 'reconsider' donating to Georgia run-off elections MORE (Calif.), Matt CartwrightMatthew (Matt) Alton CartwrightHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election The Hill's Campaign Newsletter: Election Day – Part 4 MORE (Pa.) and Joe NeguseJoseph (Joe) NeguseHouse Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Democrats to determine leaders after disappointing election Pocan won't seek another term as Progressive Caucus co-chair MORE (Colo.).

This represented a change in structure from the last Congress, when Cicilline headed the DPCC and had three co-chairs under him, Dingell, Lieu and Cartwright. Cicilline’s unsuccessful bid for assistant Speaker created an opening for Neguse, who has served as one of two freshman liaisons to Pelosi’s leadership team and ran unopposed for the fourth DPCC seat.

In 2018, Neguse made history as the first Eritrean American elected to Congress and the first African-American congressman from Colorado.

The race for Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair has been pushed to the week after Thanksgiving to give the candidates, Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) and Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), more time to campaign and lock down votes.

— Updated at 12:00 p.m.