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Democrats pick Maloney to succeed Cummings as Oversight Committee leader

14-term New Yorker will take gavel as probes of Trump administration go forward

House Democrats selected Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to be chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
House Democrats selected Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., to be chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Newly elected House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney promised on Wednesday to do her best to “follow the honorable example” of former Chairman Elijah E. Cummings, who rolled out a rigorous oversight agenda of the Trump administration this year before his death last month.

“I am deeply humbled and grateful to my colleagues for entrusting me with the chairmanship,” Maloney said in a statement.

The 14-term New York Democrat defeated Virginia Rep. Gerald E. Connolly 133-86 in a caucus-wide secret ballot vote on Wednesday to become the first woman to lead the panel, one of three committees that has been conducting the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump’s interactions with Ukraine.

“I’m honored by this opportunity to do more for the American people,” Maloney said. “There’s much work to be done, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Maloney was the favorite in the race to succeed Cummings after receiving the recommendation of the Democratic Policy and Steering Committee on Tuesday.

Maloney has promised to continue the robust agenda Cummings undertook after Democrats assumed the majority this year. Investigation subjects include the president’s business conflicts, lapses in White House security clearance protocols and payments Trump made ahead of the 2016 election to women who claimed to have slept with him.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi had elevated Maloney to acting chairwoman after Cummings’ death, keeping with caucus rules that hand the gavel to the most senior surviving member until the whole caucus votes on a replacement.

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Maloney has served on the Oversight panel since joining Congress in 1993. Connolly has served on the committee since his first term began in 2009.

Maloney secured the Steering Committee’s backing Tuesday by a 35-17 margin over Connolly on the panel’s second round of voting. The steering panel traditionally considers seniority, effects on diversity of caucus leadership and engagement on committee-specific issues when handing down recommendations.

Connolly and Maloney embraced on the House floor after the results of Wednesday’s election had become clear. The pair had a roughly two-minute discussion before Connolly patted her three times on her left shoulder and exited the voting chamber.

“Great race, wonderful experience, gratifying end with the level of support,” Connolly said after Wednesday’s caucus-wide vote. “Carolyn Maloney has my full support. Look forward to collaborating.”

Asked if he thinks the caucus will ever get over the idea that seniority rules, Connolly said, “Not today.”

House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn spoke Tuesday in favor of Maloney after she and Connolly went to a run-off vote in the steering meeting, a speech that many believe may have proven decisive. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch of Massachusetts had been running but dropped out of the race after Tuesday’s vote.

Longtime party divisions over gender politics and how much weight to give seniority when deciding who should chair a committee simmered under the surface in the race to replace Cummings.

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

But Maloney 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, the New York congresswoman 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.

Maloney has been the vice chairwoman of the Joint Economic Committee since January. Rep. Don Beyer of Virginia, who backed Connolly in the Oversight race, is next in line in seniority to fill her void. Pelosi will appoint Maloney’s successor.

The speaker lauded Maloney as “a force for progress in America for decades” in a statement Wednesday.

“She brings outstanding legislative experience and knowledge of the workings of the Congress that will strengthen the Oversight Committee’s work at this critical time in our nation’s history,” Pelosi said.

During the race for the Oversight gavel, Connolly pitched his track record as the top Democrat since 2013 on the Oversight Subcommittee on Government Operations, the subcommittee with the most sweeping investigative reach. 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.

“Our committee has a consequential responsibility in the next year to bring transparency and accountability to the Trump administration for the American people,” Connolly said in a statement after his defeat.

“Chairwoman Maloney has my full support,” The Virginia congressman said.

Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.

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