Rep. Katherine Clark Elected Assistant Speaker of the House, the Second-Highest-Ranking Woman in Party Leadership

Katherine Clark. (Wikipedia)

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) was announced the next assistant speaker of the House on Wednesday—making her the second highest-ranking woman in House leadership. She holds the fourth most power among Democrats, who again nominated Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as speaker of the House.

Clark won the election for assistant speaker against Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) by 43 votes, out of nearly 230 cast. (The final vote was 135-92.) 

“I can tell you this about our caucus: We are the guardians of people’s hopes and aspirations. And we are going to be the unified engine for change,” Clark said following the vote.

In replacing Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.)—who won a Senate seat earlier this month—Clark also became the only woman in top Democratic Party leadership: She will serve alongside three reelected leaders of the 116th Congress, Reps. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.). 

“As assistant speaker, my work will be guided by everyday Americans who have stood up this year to protect and strengthen our nation,” Clark said in a statement. “From the heroic frontline workers who bravely put the security and health of others before their own, to the record number of Americans who took to the streets this summer and took to the polls this November, who energized our democracy and brought a renewed urgency to our fight for racial, climate and economic justice.”

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Clark was first elected to the House in 2013—during a Massachusetts special election for the 5th District—replacing current Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.). She had previously served as a state legislator, general counsel for the Massachusetts Office of Child Care Services, and policy chief for the state attorney general. 

Her work places emphasis on legislation to help women and families, through initiatives like affordable child care, family leave and health care. It led her to the role of Democratic Caucus vice chair in the most recent session, which will be filled by Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) in 2021.

“The House Democratic Majority, in partnership with President-Elect Biden and Vice President-Elect Harris, will meet this moment of historic challenges and confront it with historic progress,” Clark said. “With faith in our country and optimism for our future, I am eager to get to work.”

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Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a junior at Tufts University studying sociology and community health. She is a Ms. contributing writer, and was formerly an editorial fellow, research fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.