House Dems set to choose leader of powerful Oversight panel

Credit: ABC
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WASHINGTON (AP) — As impeachment hearings resume on Capitol Hill, House Democrats are preparing to choose who will lead the powerful Oversight and Reform Committee — a key role in the ongoing impeachment inquiry of President Donald Trump.

Three veteran lawmakers, including Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, the acting chairwoman, are seeking to replace the late Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who died last month.

Reps. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts and Gerry Connolly of Virginia also are seeking the post.

The House Democratic Steering Committee will make a recommendation on Tuesday, with the full Democratic caucus set to vote Wednesday.

The committee has a broad portfolio, including oversight of the Trump administration’s handling of the census and immigration matters, as well as investigations into Trump’s business dealings and security clearances granted to White House officials.

Oversight also is one of three committees that have been leading the impeachment inquiry, although the most visible leader remains House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff of California.

Maloney, who lost out to Cummings as the committee’s top Democrat nearly a decade ago, is seen as the front-runner. The panel’s longest-serving Democrat, Maloney has led the committee on an acting basis since Cummings’ Oct. 17 death and has won endorsements from the next two longest-serving Democrats, Washington, D.C., Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri.

Maloney, 73, is in her 14th term representing a district that includes much of Manhattan, including Trump Tower.

She declined to be interviewed, but said in a statement that she is "focused on discussing the chairmanship directly with my colleagues.”

Connolly, 69, in his sixth term representing Northern Virginia, said he has “substantial support” for the chairman’s post “and it’s growing.’’

In a letter hand-delivered to House colleagues, Connolly said the Oversight election “is not a business as usual decision. The American people must see the main investigative body of Congress as a force for accountability that upholds our constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the executive. That was the legacy left by Elijah Cummings. That is the work that must continue.’’

Connolly, an outspoken Trump critic, said in an interview that Democrats “need to put the most capable team on the field we can,’’ adding that he has “a demonstrated ability to lead, a firm commitment” to Oversight and experience as the chairman of the subcommittee on government operations.

Lynch, 64, in his 10th term representing suburban Boston, said he hopes to continue the work begun by Cummings and is “ready and eager to protect and defend the Constitution and the rule of law.”

Lynch acknowledged in an interview that he faces an “uphill battle” against Maloney’s seniority, but pointed out that he has served on the committee for 18 years and chairs the subcommittee on national security.

Maloney, who has served on Oversight since 1993, is best known for her years of advocacy for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and famously wore a New York firefighter’s jacket at the Capitol and even at the Met Gala until she could secure permanent authorization for a victims’ fund. A measure making the 9/11 fund permanent was a rare example of a bipartisan bill signed into law earlier this year.

Maloney also serves on the House Financial Services Committee, reflecting the importance of the financial industry in her district. She was a key sponsor of a corporate transparency bill approved by the House last month. Maloney has agreed to give up her role leading a subcommittee on investor protection and capital markets if elected to head Oversight.