Kucinich challenges Towns for top Gov. Reform panel slot
Updated 11:20 a.m.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (Ohio) announced Wednesday that he would challenge Rep. Edolphus Towns (N.Y.) for the top Democratic slot on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, setting up competition for the role of chief defender of the Obama administration and chief protector of the federal workforce in the 112th Congress.
Towns is currently the chairman of the panel and is planning to slide over to become the ranking member when Republicans take control in January. But some Democrats worry that the New Yorker won't provide an effective counterpunch to Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who will take over as committee chairman. Issa is energetic and media-savvy, and widely expected to launch multiple probes of the Obama administration -- as the OGR committee traditionally does when the House and the White House are controlled by different parties.
Kucinich is currently fifth in seniority on the panel's Democratic roster, making his campaign an uphill climb given that his party typically gives very heavy weight to seniority in making committee choices.
In a letter to his Democratic colleagues announcing his bid, Kucinich called the choice of the OGR ranking slot "perhaps the most important vote" in organizing for the next Congress. "This is because [Issa] has already made wild and unsubstantiated charges which threaten to turn the principal oversight committee of the House into a witch hunt," Kucinich wrote.
Kucinich also alleged that Issa "reveals a lack of restraint and basic fairness. ... We cannot simply stand by idly and hope that such a reckless approach to the use of the power of the Chair will not happen, especially since it is not only being promised, but demonstrated by the person who will hold the gavel."
An Issa spokesman declined to comment on Kucinich's letter.
Towns, for his part, is moving forward with his own bid for the job.
"Based on the overwhelming support Rep. Towns is receiving from fellow Democrats, he is confident that he will be Ranking Member," said Towns spokeswoman Jenny Rosenberg. "Rep. Towns firmly believes that his record of accomplishments as chairman -- including a wide-ranging investigation into the federal bailout that resulted in recovering more than $400 million for taxpayers, comprehensive Recovery Act oversight that created three million jobs and improper payments legislation that President Obama signed into law -- make him the best candidate for this important position. ...
"Chairman Towns has clearly stated that any attempt to use this committee as a political weapon are intolerable and he will lead a strong and unified resistance against any such effort."
Kucinich is a hero to many liberals, particularly among the grassroots, but Towns will likely have the full support of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), a former CBC chair who is ahead of Kucinich on the roster, had been mentioned as a possible challenger as well but he said this week that he supported Towns for the post.
In addition to being the primary oversight panel, the OGR committee also has jurisdiction over the District and the federal workforce, which will make it a key battleground as Republicans seek to cut government spending in the next Congress. Democrats will make their choices for this and other committee posts when they return to session after Thanksgiving.
| November 17, 2010; 9:26 AM ET
Categories: 44 The Obama Presidency, Capitol Briefing | Tags: dennis kucinich; edolphus towns; darrell issa; oversight and government reform
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