The race to replace Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) as the leading Democrat on the Oversight and Reform Committee is already heating up, with at least two senior Democrats vying for the top spot in the next Congress.
Reps. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) quickly announced their intent to seek the powerful seat on Wednesday, just hours after Maloney lost her primary contest to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) in Manhattan.
Maloney has chaired the committee since the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) almost three years ago. She will keep the gavel until the end of the current term, when House Democrats will vote to replace her. It’s unclear if other Democrats will join Lynch and Connolly in the race.
With subpoena power and a broad jurisdiction, the Oversight panel is among the most sought-after committee spots in the lower chamber. And with Democrats expected to lose control of the House in November’s midterm elections, the stakes will be high.
Republicans are vowing to use the Oversight panel to launch numerous investigations into the Biden administration.
In that scenario, the ranking member position will provide a high-profile perch for the senior Democrat to cut a national profile defending the party’s White House ally on issues ranging from border immigration policy to the origins of the coronavirus.
Lynch, an 11-term lawmaker, is touting his seniority on the panel in his pitch to fellow Democrats, highlighting his current position as chair of the Oversight Committee’s subpanel on national security.
“For the past 17 years, I have served as a Chairman or Ranking Member of an Oversight Subcommittee – a record that is unmatched by any Committee member – and I have fought proudly against Republican legislative attacks designed to curb critical safety regulations, abrogate the fundamental employment rights of federal employees, privatize and dismantle the Postal Service, and infringe on D.C. Home Rule,” Lynch wrote in a letter to Democratic colleagues.
Connolly, a member of the New Democrats in his seventh term, is making a similar case, arguing that his long experience on the panel fighting to protect government institutions like the Postal Service, and defend federal employees — a significant constituency in his Northern Virginia district — make him the best fit for the job.
“For more than fourteen years, I have made this Committee my top priority and focused on the issues that define it: Postal reform; defending our proud federal employees; rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse; modernizing the federal government; and holding the Trump administration accountable,” he said Wednesday morning in a statement.
Unlike the Republicans, Democrats tend to favor more veteran members when it comes to filling the top seat on committees. Still, seniority provides no guarantee of winning a gavel. Indeed, Cummings took over the top spot on the Oversight Committee in 2011 by hopping over a more veteran Democrat. More recently, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) won the Appropriations gavel over the the more senior Rep. Marcy Kaptur (Ohio).
Lynch, perhaps with that in mind, is vowing to empower the other members of the committee when it comes to investigative subjects.
“In my experience, the Oversight Committee has been most effective when we allow individual members to showcase their diverse talents and areas of keen interest,” he wrote.
Connolly, who has been among the most outspoken critics of Trump’s role in last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, maintains that he’s already proven his mettle in that arena.
“We need a tested leader who will not be timid in the face of Republican insurrectionists. One who has a deep understanding of the issues facing our Committee and our country. A collaborator who can be a bridge to our talented and diverse caucus,” he said.