(Updates to reflect Ro Khanna endorsing Jamie Raskin rather than running himself.)
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The race to lead Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee next year has already begun with Reps. Gerry Connolly and Stephen Lynch both announcing they will run, and Jamie Raskin considering joining the mix.
The position came open after Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) lost her primary to House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (N.Y.). The two, who had served together since winning election in 1992, faced off after their districts were drawn together in redistricting.
The panel has sweeping powers to investigate “any matter” within another committee’s jurisdiction, allowing the person wielding the gavel to call high-profile hearings, which in the past has included examinations of steroids in baseball and waste and fraud in procurement. The panel also oversees the civil service, US Postal Service, and Washington, D.C.
The Democrat chosen by the Steering Committee faces the possibility of being in the minority if the GOP takes control, and will play defense to numerous investigations House Republicans have planned.
Lynch (D-Mass.) alluded to the challenge in a Wednesday letter to Democratic colleagues, saying they were in a “pivotal moment in our history when it is clear that some Republican members have actively chosen to disregard the truth and their sworn oaths of office in favor of political gamesmanship.”
Lynch is the second most senior committee member and is chair of the National Security Subcommittee.
Connolly (Va.) also ranks high in seniority and heads the Government Operations Subcommittee. He said he’d work to protect “the progress made by President Biden and our Democratic majorities.”
“We need a tested leader who will not be timid in the face of Republican insurrectionists,” he said in a Wednesday statement.
Others Weighing Bids
Raskin’s office confirmed he is considering running for the top Democratic position on Oversight. Punchbowl first reported his considerations, and a spokesman declined to elaborate.
Raskin (Md.) is chair of the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Subcommittee. He was one of the managers in President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial and is a member of the panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.
He picked up an endorsement Wednesday from Environment Subcommittee Chair Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), who had been seen as a candidate.
Khanna said on Twitter that Raskin “has done a masterful job standing up for democratic principles and norms and embodies the highest ideals of patriotism” and called for progressives and the Democratic Caucus to rally around him.
The most senior member on the committee won’t be seeking the top spot. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said Wednesday she’s sticking with her run for chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee opened by the retirement of Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.).
Norton said in an interview that it was a “hard choice” between the two panels, but noted the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s work “directly affects every member’s district.” She’s the chair of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee.
Under Maloney, the committee has examined a wide range of issues, including the workplace culture of the Washington Commanders football team and the practices of gun manufacturers.
But the role of the top Democrat on the committee could look very different next year if House Republicans are in charge. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and other GOP leaders have said they’ll open several investigations into the Biden administration.
In an July opinion piece, McCarthy joined Judiciary Committee ranking member Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Oversight Committee ranking member James Comer (R-Ky.) promising an investigation into President Joe Biden’s family members, especially his son Hunter.
Daniel Schuman, policy director for the group Demand Progress, said if Republicans take the majority, the committee will take “rigorous action” to “dig into every aspect of the Biden administration’s behavior.”
If Democrats are in the minority, whoever is ranking member “will find themselves in the position of the chief defender of the administration,” Schuman said.
“The role of being in a separate branch to check the executive branch will become less important to them.”
Norton said she would support whoever had the greatest seniority on the committee, although she didn’t know who that was during a Wednesday morning interview. According to the committee, that’s Lynch.
“Democrats like to go by seniority,” Norton said.