Maloney Maneuvers for Oversight Post

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney is making her case to to be named ranking member of the House Oversight Committee, after Brooklyn Congressman Ed Towns’ surprise announcement that he won’t seek the post.

“Since coming to Congress in 1993, I have been a member of [the committee] and have been a strong and vocal voice in defending the Census, reviewing government contracts, and ensuring general oversight over government agencies,” Maloney wrote in a letter to colleagues on the House Steering Committee.

“I have a strong record of digging deep into the issues, asking tough questions, and fighting back.”

Fighting back would seem to be what Democrats are looking for. The party is placing particular importance on this ranking member spot, and is hoping to find someone who can effectively check the incoming chairman, Darrel Issa. The California Republican is considered a formidable foe, and there was concern that Towns wasn’t up to the task of countering him.

Issa has promised to hold hundreds of hearings focused on the Obama administration, and is considered especially good at making his case on television. (He also has a recognizable voice. Issa founded the company that makes Viper alarms, and it’s his voice on that warns intruders: “Step away from the car.”)

Also seeking the post is Maryland Congressman Elijah Cummings. While Cummings is likely to receive support from other black members, Maloney is touting the fact that she would be the first woman to serve as ranking member. And she quickly lined up support from a number of women’s groups. She also secured the endorsement of Towns, who is the most senior Democrat on the committee.

But Maloney’s strongest argument is probably that she is the committee’s second most senior member–behind only Towns–and these decisions are typically based on seniority.

Just last week, the Congressional Black Caucus–which might be inclined to support Cummings– issued a statement praising that system.

“Members of the Congressional Black Caucus strongly support maintaining the seniority system for selecting committee leadership,” said Chairwoman Barbara Lee in the statement. “The seniority system has served the Democratic Caucus well and has ushered in an era of diverse committee leadership, which is an asset to our party and our nation.”

A spokesman for the CBC did not immediately return a call for comment.

The House Steering Committee is expected to vote tomorrow, and any candidates who receive 14 votes (from the roughly 50 members) are then referred to the full Democratic caucus, which makes the final selection.

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