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House Democrats have a new generation of leaders, but they hail from the coasts

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: Hakeem Jeffries
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries at the Capitol on Nov. 30, 2022. J. Scott Applewhite / AP

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday ... President Biden holds a joint press conference with French President Macron and then hosts a state dinner for him in the evening. ... The House passes legislation to avert potential railroad strike. ... Former President Barack Obama campaigns with Sen. Raphael Warnock on the final day of early voting in Georgia Senate runoff. ... Obama also stars in Warnock’s closing runoff ad… And Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., files paperwork for 2024 gubernatorial bid.

But first: For the first time in nearly 20 years, House Democrats have a new generation of leaders.

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., will be minority leader (he’s 52 years old and the first Black lawmaker to lead a caucus in either chamber); Katherine Clark, D-Mass., will be whip (she’s 59); and Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., will be caucus chair (he’s 43). 

It’s definitely a generational sea change from the trio of Nancy Pelosi (82), Steny Hoyer (83) and Jim Clyburn (82), who are all remaining in Congress — and Clyburn is facing a challenge for the No. 4 position in House Democratic leadership. 

Democratic young guns have pined for a shot in leadership, and now they have it. 

Yet it remains an awfully coastal group of leaders, given that this new generation represents New York, Massachusetts and California — at a time when the party has had its struggles in Midwest and Sun Belt. 

In fact, when you combine both the Democrats’ House and Senate leadership teams, both leaders (Jeffries and Chuck Schumer) are Brooklynites, while the only Midwesterner is Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 leader. 

Chart of the day: Explaining those China protests

NBC News: These five graphics help explain the zero-Covid protests in China

Data Download: The number of the day is … 290

That’s how many members of the House voted to pass a bill on Wednesday averting a looming rail strike, with 79 Republicans joining all but eight Democrats to support the measure, per the NBC News Capitol Hill team. The bill imposes a labor agreement that the White House negotiated in September ahead of a Dec. 9 strike deadline, although some unions opposed the agreement. The House also passed another bill adding seven days of paid sick leave to the deal by a much closer margin of 221 to 207. Both measures now head to the Senate. 

The White House is warning that a rail strike could upend the economy, NBC News’ Shannon Pettypiece reports. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told NBC News’ Peter Alexander that a rail strike is “basically the same as the economy shutting down,” later adding, “There’s really no part of our economy that would be untouched” and calling on the Senate to approve the labor deal.

“It is our best chance to get a bill through, to get results through, that prevent that kind of shutdown. We just can’t afford that kind of shutdown for our economy,” Buttigieg said.

Other numbers to know:

21 years: The age gap between the Democratic caucus’ Assistant Leader, South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn, and Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, who announced he would challenge Clyburn for the position in a closed door vote on Thursday.

$37.7 billion: The amount that Senate leaders from both parties believe Congress can allocate to supporting Ukraine in the next federal spending package.

500 hours: That’s how much time a court ordered two right-wing operatives to spend registering voters after they were convicted of telecommunications fraud.

6,252: The number of identities of migrants seeking protection in the U.S. that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement accidentally posted to their website.

7: The number of GOP senators threatening to delay a sweeping military authorization bill unless the Senate can vote on the military’s Covid vaccine mandate, per NBC News’ Julie Tsirkin and Zoë Richards.

More than $10 million: How much the Senate runoff could cost Georgia taxpayers, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports.  

2.9%: The GDP growth in the third quarter, per an updated estimate from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.  

Runoff watch: Barack Obama is back

Less than a week before the Georgia Senate runoff, Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock is getting some help from former President Barack Obama, who heads to the state today to rally with the incumbent senator. Obama — who joined Warnock on the trail ahead of his November election too — also appears in a new ad Warnock’s campaign is running. And his wife, former first lady Michelle Obama, recorded robocalls for the Warnock campaign too. 

Warnock’s rival, Republican Herschel Walker, will campaign today with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as part of his “Evict Warnock Bus Tour.” But as the New York Times reports, some Republicans are worried that Walker hasn’t been on the campaign trail enough down the stretch. And Politico reports that Walker’s strategy appears to be “avoid any more controversy” and “let trusted Republican voices do most of the talking.”

Democrats still continue to pump money into the race — one top Democratic group, Georgia Honor (which is affiliated with the Senate Majority PAC), dropped another $5.83 million on Wednesday. And a partnership between Majority Forward and the America Votes Coalition said it’s spending more than $11 million on field organizing and mobilization. While the efforts are part of the growing Democratic spending advantage in the runoff, the National Republican Senatorial Committee put out a memo on Wednesday where it argued that “Herschel Walker is on track to win and the Democrats know it.” 

Eyes on 2024: Biden takes his victory lap

NBC News’ Mike Memoli and Carol E. Lee report that President Joe Biden is planning post-midterm travel to places like Arizona, and an event touting Biden’s work on marriage equality as a warm up for his 2024 re-election bid. 

Midwestern nice: Politico reports that the chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer Labor-Party is lobbying the Democratic National Committee not to move Michigan into the early presidential nominating window. The DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee is set to discuss the nominating calendar at a meeting this weekend, but the AP reports that President Biden hasn’t yet weighed in on whether to knock Iowa from the top spot.

Hogan the hero?: Outgoing Maryland Republican Gov. Larry Hogan told supporters Wednesday he’ll sit down with his family “next year” to decide his political future as many expect him to mount a presidential bid. 

Florida men write books: Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Marco Rubio are both writing new books ahead of the 2024 cycle, as both men are seen as possible presidential candidates. 

Braun says goodbye to the Senate: Indiana Republican Sen. Mike Braun has filed initial paperwork to run for governor.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world 

Former President Donald Trump’s tax records have been turned over to House Democrats after a lengthy court battle.

President Joe Biden’s student debt cancellation plan remains in limbo after a federal appeals court refused to lift a holdput in place by a lower court.

The January 6 committee plans to release transcripts of its interviews with witnesses ahead of the final report, which should be out by Christmas.

The Department of Homeland Security raised concerns about threats to LGBTQ, Jewish and migrant communities in a new terrorism advisory bulletin.