Democrat for Trump’s Home District to Lead Impeachment Panel

October 28, 2019by Billy House
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney addresses anti-gun activists in Foley Square in New York City on Aug. 18, 2019. (Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa USA/TNS)

WASHINGTON — The New York City lawmaker whose district includes much of Manhattan and Trump Tower has the inside track to take over a key congressional watchdog committee with a leading role in the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump, according to multiple House Democratic officials.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, 73, has already taken over the Committee on Oversight and Reform on an acting basis, following the Oct. 17 death of Elijah Cummings, the former chairman.

Maloney’s seniority on the committee gives her an advantage over other Democrats eyeing the top job on the panel involved in the impeachment process and other investigations of Trump’s administration and associates. Since the inquiry was sparked by a whistle-blower complaint from the intelligence community, the most visible leader of the impeachment process is still expected to be Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff.

This would give Maloney an important but mostly behind-the-scenes role in hearings to gather evidence on Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine, which could be the basis for article of impeachment.

“I think it’s been decided,” said Rep. Lacy Clay, a Missouri Democrat and Oversight Committee member, who has also been suggested as a candidate. But Clay said he will not make a bid and understands that Maloney has it sewn up.

Acting chairwoman

If confirmed, Maloney will bring a long record of legislative accomplishments as well as her sometimes quirky mannerism. She recently drew attention in the Capitol (and at the Met Gala) for wearing firefighting gear. She did so as a lead sponsor of the 9/11 victims fund re-authorization to help first-responders and survivors of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The measure was one of this year’s rare examples of a bipartisan bill signed into law.

Reflecting the importance of the financial industry in her district, which includes parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, Maloney is also a senior member of the Financial Services Committee and vice chair of the Joint Economic Committee

Maloney has been temporarily leading the Oversight panel since Cummings died Oct. 17. The late chairman was a more infrequent presence on Capitol Hill as he fell ill in recent weeks, and committee staff members have been working with other panels to schedule and question witnesses.

At least two other Democrats – Reps. Gerald Connolly of Virginia and Jackie Speier of California, both 69 — have considered seeking the chairmanship, according to their colleagues. Connolly declined to speak about that possibility while the House was in mourning for Cummings, and Speier’s office didn’t respond to inquiries about her interest.

Maloney’s office declined to comment on the record.

Seniority

Maloney moved to New York as a young adult where she became a city council member mostly in the 1980s, investigating city contracts, including those linked to organized crime. She has built a mostly liberal voting record, with leading roles on census and gun issues.

She drew national attention in 2012 for walking out of an Oversight hearing on contraception and religious liberty after noting the all-male list of witnesses.

Maloney has had to juggle her constituents who work in banking with her push to reform to the industry, especially her role crafting part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul. The House recently passed an anti-money laundering bill she sponsored that Wall Street banks supported for sharing compliance responsibility with private companies.

Clay said he and many Democrats, including the powerful Congressional Black Caucus of more than 50 members, simply believe it is Maloney’s turn to lead the Oversight Committee. She was passed over for the job of ranking member when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi favored Cummings after Democrats lost the House majority in 2010.

The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, controlled by Pelosi, plays a big role in nominating the eventual chairman, to be ratified by the 234-member Democratic Caucus. Members expect the decision to be finalized by the end of next month.

Pelosi hasn’t indicated who she prefers to lead the Oversight Committee. A spokesman, Drew Hammill, when asked Thursday if Pelosi is backing Maloney, said: “She has not said that. This week is for mourning.”

But multiple House officials say the last thing Pelosi wants is for her caucus to fight over the chairmanship in the middle of the House impeachment investigation. That is part of the reason why Connolly and Speier acknowledge that the gavel is Maloney’s if she wants it.

‘Shining a spotlight’

As Oversight chairman, Cummings was looking into the administration’s failed efforts to add a citizenship question to the U.S. Census, the process for White House Security clearances and the policy of separating immigrant children from their parents at the border.

A widely watched February hearing held with former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen gave Cummings a dramatic platform that he used to ask his colleagues how history will remember them and what they did “to keep our democracy intact.”

Maloney is sure to have a less soaring oratorical style, but she has pledged to continue the probes Cummings started. In a public statement last week, Maloney recognized the importance of the impeachment process and also highlighted the committee’s other work.

“We will continue to pursue the impeachment inquiry with vigor in support of the investigation led by the Intelligence Committee,” Maloney said. But, she added, “from the high costs of prescription drugs to the horrid treatment of migrants at our southern border, we will keep shining a spotlight on this administration’s actions.”

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©2019 Bloomberg News

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