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The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

House Democrats are moving on to the next generation of leaders

The Early 202

An essential morning newsletter briefing for leaders in the nation’s capital.

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In today's edition …  The politics of a White House wedding … Meet Congress’s history-making freshman class … but first …

On the Hill

The torch has been passed

The chips appear to be falling into place.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) is expected to announce today that he’ll run for House minority leader to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as Democratic leader, after Pelosi announced Thursday that she would step down from leadership but remain in Congress.

Rep. Katherine M. Clark (D-Mass.) will announce this morning that she’s officially running for the No. 2 position. With Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) stepping aside and House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) agreeing to seek a new position, the path has been cleared for Jeffries, Clark and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) to become the new House Democratic leaders — a change atop the caucus for the first time since 2006.

The changing of the guard is bittersweet for rank-and-file members who are excited for a generational change and also nervous about losing monumental figures in the modern history of the party who knew how to count votes, raise gobs of money and negotiate among their own members, the Senate and the president.

Meet Katherine Clark

Jeffries will get most of the attention in the coming days, but Clark will also be an important player in shaping how Democrats deal with the new Republican majority. She plans to send a letter to her colleagues announcing her run this morning.

  • “I have the track record of bringing people and solutions together, and I have built trust across the caucus in different ideological corners, geographic parts of our caucus by listening and really knowing the issues that members care about where they need to be able to deliver for their districts,” Clark said in an interview.

In the letter, she writes that Democrats have “defied expectations” by winning a “historically close margin” in the House. “Now we must be tough, agile, and united to stop the Republican House Majority’s dangerous agenda and take back the House,” she wrote.

Clark, 59, is running for minority whip, responsible for counting and rounding up support or opposition on key votes. It’s much easier to keep the party united in the minority against a slim House Republican majority that’s expected to focus on investigating the Biden administration and blocking the president’s agenda than it is to whip votes in the majority.

Clark represents a deep-blue district in the Boston suburbs. She won reelection last week with 74 percent of the vote — which allows to her focus on reelecting her colleagues and not her own races.

She would be the second woman in either party, after Pelosi, to serve in one of the top two positions in House leadership, and she said she’ll continue to focus on women and families in her new role if elected.

  • As a member of the “sandwich generation,” who took care of young children at the same time as elderly parents, Clark said women’s struggles are always front and center for her. She is a member of the Women’s Caucus and has been instrumental in working with members to message around access to abortions, and worked to enable federal workers to have expanded fertility benefits and child care. She also worked to provide federal support for child care providers during the pandemic.

Through her role recruiting candidates to run in red districts in 2018, Clark built a deep relationship with moderate Democrats most at risk of losing their reelections. She mentored new members in her role as vice chair of the caucus. As a member of the congressional Progressive Caucus, she is in line with the most liberal wing of the party.

“Katherine does a great job of being able to straddle and prioritize — how do we get to a consensus product?” Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) said.

Read more about Clark here.

The chip that is out of place

Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.) was running for the No. 4 leadership spot, chair of the Democratic caucus — the position that Clark currently holds. But now that Clyburn has said he wants to stay in leadership as the No. 4 Democrat, he essentially could box out Neguse.

He is suddenly without a leadership slot.

Intense negotiations are ongoing about how to accommodate Neguse. We’ve heard about many different scenarios that aren’t worth getting into, but Neguse, a rising star in the Democratic Party who served as an impeachment manager during Donald Trump’s second impeachment, was running unopposed because of how much support he garnered within the party. Now it’s unclear where exactly he’ll fit in.

More coverage from The Post:

At the White House

The politics of a White House wedding

Pomp and circumstance are back at the White House. President Biden and first lady Jill Biden last month hosted the largest Diwali celebration ever held there, an hours-long Elton John concert before 2,000 attendees and the first Easter Egg Roll since the start of the pandemic. Next month, they will host a state dinner for French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife.

And tomorrow, the Bidens will host a wedding.

Naomi King Biden, 28, will marry Peter George Heermann Neal, 25, on the South Lawn. Naomi, the eldest daughter of Hunter Biden and his first wife, Kathleen Buhle, will be the first presidential granddaughter to have both her wedding ceremony and reception at the White House.

“Peter and I are endlessly grateful to my Nana and Pop for the opportunity to celebrate our wedding at the White House,” Naomi tweeted in April. “We can’t wait to make our commitment to one another official and for what lies ahead.”

The most recent White House wedding ceremony was in 2013, when White House photographer Pete Souza married Patti Lease in the Rose Garden.

“Ours was a small gathering of family and close friends, and in that way was more intimate than previous White House weddings,” Souza said.

A history of weddings

There have been 18 documented weddings and four wedding receptions at the White House since the early 1800s, according to the White House Historical Association. The first was between Lucy Payne Washington — first lady Dolley Madison’s sister — and Supreme Court Justice Thomas Todd on March 29, 1812.

“We Americans have very few national ceremonies,” presidential historian Michael Beschloss told The Early. He recalled Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Lynda Johnson Robb and Tricia Nixon Cox’s ceremonies as “grand weddings that the public was very much involved in.”

Politics, pomp and circumstance

There are many reasons to get married in the White House, Beschloss told The Early, but one advantageous reason — for the host — is to curry favor with the public. In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson, aware that the American public was angry with him over the decades-long Vietnam War, hoped his daughter Lynda’s marriage to a young Marine would “improve the way that people thought of him,” Beschloss said.

Years later, President-elect Richard M. Nixon encouraged his youngest daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower to marry David Eisenhower, the only grandson of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in the White House, but she refused because she thought it would be “artificial.”

  • From Nixon’s 1978 memoir: “I told Julie that she should give serious consideration to waiting until after the inauguration and being married in the White House. That was a unique privilege, and I wanted to be sure that she did not renounce it lightly,” Nixon recalled. “But both she and David felt that they wanted their wedding ceremony to be as personal and nonpolitical as it possibly could.”

But Tricia Nixon, his eldest daughter, got married in the Rose Garden. Nixon “was very eager for Tricia to have a White House wedding because he thought that would help him be more popular,” Beschloss said. Although Tricia picked the venue a year prior, Nixon was well aware of the political advantages of hosting a White House wedding, Timothy Naftali, former director of the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library, told The Early. Nixon hoped to use the televised Rose Garden ceremony to help him connect with younger voters ahead of the 1972 presidential election.

Nixon and his advisers discussed the impact of the wedding on women voters and their “very strong emotional interest in weddings,” according to a review of the Nixon tapes by The Early. Days later, Nixon asked White House chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman to launch a campaign to get NBC to replay its coverage of the wedding. “Women all wanna see the damn thing,” he told Haldeman.

Nixon told his advisers that Tricia’s wedding elicited a strong reaction from Americans. “That effect is lasting in my opinion,” he said. “People will never forget that, just like they never forgot Jackie Kennedy’s tour of the White House.”

But neither wedding had any meaningful effect on public perception, according to Gallup’s presidential approval ratings during those time periods. Johnson’s approval rating increased by only three percentage points nearly a month after the wedding, and Nixon’s remained unchanged, despite more than half of the U.S. population tuning in for the televised coverage. He was, however, reelected the following year.

A similar pitch was made to President George W. Bush. Doug Wead, Bush’s former special assistant, told our colleague Monica Hesse in 2007 that he believed a White House wedding would improve the outgoing president’s popularity.

“I’ve said before that President Bush’s best chance to come out of his term well is if they capture Osama bin Laden and one of the twins gets married,” Wead told Monica. The Bushes hosted the last wedding reception held at the White House in 2008 for their daughter Jenna Bush.

So will a White House wedding help Biden, a president whose party defied expectations but who is still beset by low approval ratings?

Probably not. But it could help “return a sense of dignity and joy to the White House,” Naftali said.

“This wedding will [show] that the White House can be a center of joy, and, at least for a moment, of love and of things we associate with our own families,” he said.

The campaign

Meet Congress’s history-making freshman class

Seventeen new members are in their 20s or 30s.

“The new freshman class is the youngest in recent history,” with Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) as the legislature’s first Gen Z member, per our colleagues Derek Hawkins, Shikha Subramaniam and Garland Potts. “The average age is about 46 for newly elected representatives and just shy of 50 for newly elected senators, though this could change slightly as several races remain uncalled. That’s younger than each of the past seven freshman classes. And it’s much younger than Congress overall.”

Oregon will get its first Latina representatives.

“Republican Lori Chavez-DeRemer and Democrat Andrea Salinas will join Congress in January. They are among a record number of Latina freshmen representatives this year,” our colleagues write.

Black women made history, too.

Although the number of women elected to Congress is “down from 2018, when voters sent more than three dozen newly elected women to the Capitol … the new Congress will include a record number of Black women — 27, up from the previous record of 26.”

The Media

Weekend reeeads


Things aren’t going … great for Twitter.

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