While speaking before the House, Minority Leader Jeffries went through the alphabet to explain how he felt Democrats would differ from the GOP.
After 15 rounds of voting, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California early on Saturday morning secured the House speakership that he had long desired, cobbling enough support among the party to finally break the impasse that had effectively frozen the lower chamber for days.
With control of the House having switched from the Democratic Party to the GOP, Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York then stood before the full legislative body as he would soon hand over the gavel to the newly-elected speaker, a hallmark of a peaceful transition of power.
But before he left the dais, Jeffries, who succeeded former Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California as the leader of the House Democratic caucus, delivered a passionate speech where he spoke of the need for bipartisanship while also issuing a staunch defense of his party's values in a chamber that will have a razor-thin 222-212 GOP majority.
In his remarks, Jeffries lavished praise on Pelosi, who served as the first female speaker in US history and held the title from 2007 to 2011 and again from 2019 until last week, calling her a "legendary legislator" and a "no-nonsense negotiator."
He then proceeded to remark on how — in his eyes — Democrats would differ from Republicans in Congress, going through the alphabet and alluding to everything from a strong defense of the Constitution to former President Donald Trump
's continued influence within the GOP.
"I 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. Not as Democrats, not as Republicans, not as Independents, but as Americans," he said.
He continued: "But I also want to make clear that we will never compromise our principles. 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, governing over gaslighting, hopefulness over hatred, inclusion over isolation, justice over judicial overreach, knowledge over kangaroo courts, liberty over limitation, maturity over Mar-a-Lago, normalcy over negativity, opportunity over obstruction, people over politics, quality of life issues over QAnon, reason over racism, substance over slander, triumph over tyranny, understanding over ugliness, voting rights over voter suppression, working families over the well-connected, xenial over xenophobia, 'Yes, we can' over 'You can't do it,' and zealous representation over zero-sum confrontation."
Jeffries' reference to Mar-a-Lago highlighted the ties that Trump still enjoys with most top GOP lawmakers, including McCarthy, who traveled to the Florida club in January 2021 shortly after he backtracked on criticism of the former president over his conduct regarding the Capitol riot in Washington, DC, earlier that month.
McCarthy, who went into the initial speaker's vote with the support of the overwhelming majority of the House GOP Conference, received the backing of Trump in the contest — with the former president even urging conservative holdouts to throw their support behind the Californian.
But McCarthy still elicits distrust from several conservative lawmakers within the party, making those members highly consequential in such a narrowly-controlled Congress.