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Carolyn Maloney’s loss sets off Democratic scramble for key committee post

<i>Alex Wong/Getty Images</i><br/>Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) speaks during a hearing on gun violence before House Oversight and Reform Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill June 8 in Washington
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Alex Wong/Getty Images
Committee Chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) speaks during a hearing on gun violence before House Oversight and Reform Committee at Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill June 8 in Washington

By Manu Raju and Annie Grayer, CNN

Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s resounding loss in her New York primary set off an immediate scramble for her powerful position running the House Oversight Committee, with a bevy of Democrats jockeying for a spot central to their party’s investigative priorities.

Maloney, who was forced into a member-versus-member primary because of the congressional redistricting process and suffered a stinging defeat to Rep. Jerry Nadler, now will give up her gavel atop the committee at the end of this Congress. Even though an election for the plum spot is months away and won’t take effect until next year, several Democrats immediately expressed interest in the position, launching just one of what could be several key leadership battles after the November midterms.

Rep. Gerry Connolly of Virginia, a Democrat who lost to Maloney in a race for the chairmanship in 2019, immediately announced a run — as did Rep. Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts. Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin, who currently serves on the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, told CNN he is also mulling a run. And other Democrats may throw their hats in as well.

“We need a tested leader who will not be timid in the face of Republican insurrectionists,” Connolly said in a statement.

Depending on the outcome of the November elections, Democrats could find themselves watching Republicans drive the committee’s investigations. If Republicans win the House, as they are currently favored, then the top Democrat on the panel will lack subpoena power and instead serve as their party’s top messenger in an attempt to counter the GOP agenda.

But if Democrats keep the House, the new chairman will inherit crucial investigations currently being conducted by the panel.

The House Oversight Committee was one of the first entities to raise questions about the documents former President Donald Trump brought with him to his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, and probe whether classified material existed there. The panel recently opened an investigation into the potentially deleted text messages of Secret Service agents from around the dates of the Capitol attack, while also investigating the country’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Connolly currently chairs the House government operations subcommittee and has served on the full committee for 14 years. When announcing his bid, he highlighted his focus on postal reform, defending federal employees and battling the Trump administration.

Lynch, who is more senior to Connolly on the committee and serves as chair of the subcommittee on national security, wrote in a letter to colleagues announcing his candidacy, “I believe that the role of the Oversight Committee is more important now than ever.”

“As the most senior Democrat running to lead the Committee, I am well prepared to serve at this 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, divisive rhetoric, and disinformation regarding the 2020 election, the January 6th insurrection, misconduct by former President Trump and other issues of critical concern to the American people.”

The leadership elections are conducted by secret ballot, so it’s anyone’s guess how the race could turn out. After the midterms, there will be much jockeying for key posts, especially if Speaker Nancy Pelosi steps aside from leading the caucus she has dominated for the better part of the past two decades.

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