Congress

Maloney gets Oversight gavel nod from Steering Committee; Connolly will challenge in full caucus vote

Dem group gives New York Democrat 35-17 edge over Connolly in recommendation to succeed Elijah E. Cummings

New York Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney on Tuesday won the recommendation of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to lead the House Oversight and Reform Committee. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney won the recommendation of the influential House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Tuesday to chair the Oversight and Reform Committee, one of the key panels investigating President Donald Trump.

The New York Democrat, the most senior member on the panel, got the nod over Virginia’s Gerald E. Connolly by 35 votes to 17 in a second round of voting.

Connolly is not giving up on his bid to replace the late Oversight Chairman Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, however. He will remain on the ballot for the caucuswide vote scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday.

“We are going to go to caucus,” a  Connolly spokesman confirmed to CQ Roll Call via text message.

A spokeswoman for Massachusetts Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, who has also been campaigning for the Oversight gavel, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his boss’s plans for the caucuswide vote.

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn spoke up on Tuesday in favor of Maloney before the steering panel, which usually considers seniority, effects on diversity of caucus leadership and engagement on committee-specific issues when handing down recommendations.

Maloney has served on the Oversight panel since she joined the House in 1993. Lynch has served since 2001, and Connolly since 2009.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi elevated Maloney to acting chairwoman after Cummings’ death last month, keeping with caucus rules that hand the gavel to the most senior surviving member.

The race between Maloney and Connolly has forced the party to confront longtime divisions over gender politics and how much weight to give seniority when deciding who should chair a committee.

Many Democrats, including some who sit on the panel with Maloney, have questioned whether she has the demeanor to counter Republican ranking member Jim Jordan of Ohio, multiple Democratic aides have told CQ Roll Call. One of Trump’s most aggressive defenders, Jordan was temporarily assigned, for example, to the Intelligence Committee for the public impeachment hearings.

But those Democratic skeptics have been careful not to openly oppose Maloney because of the optics of favoring a white man instead of a woman to succeed an African American chairman, especially after Maloney was already passed over once. 

Maloney has won backing from most senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay, the second- and third-highest ranking Democrats on the Oversight panel.

Over the last month she has touted her work helping to remove the citizenship question from the 2020 census, promote the Equal Rights Amendment and introduce bills to guarantee paid family leave for federal employees.

She has also pledged to continue Cummings’ rigorous oversight of Trump and his administration, which predates the impeachment proceedings focused on Ukraine in the Intelligence Committee.

Connolly has sought to leverage his relationships among members of the Virginia delegation and some of the younger Oversight members, with whom he made inroads as a conduit to Cummings before the former chairman’s death.

Since 2013, Connolly has been the top Democrat on the Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations, the subcommittee with the most sweeping investigative reach. And last Congress, he was Cummings’ vice ranking member, filling in for the chairman on multiple occasions when the Maryland Democrat was in the hospital or at home convalescing.

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