House Democrats may have a problem brewing on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) circulated a letter Tuesday, indicating that he’ll mount a campaign to pick off Rep. Ed Towns (D-N.Y.) as the ranking member of the panel in the new Republican-controlled House, according to two senior Democratic lawmakers.
But to move up the committee ranks to even have a chance of taking out Towns, who’s chaired the committee for the last two years, Kucinich will have to leapfrog two more senior Democrats: Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings and New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who have both said they’re supporting Towns.
Democrats are facing the reality of a particularly active Oversight and Government Reform Committee. California Rep. Darrell Issa, who’s in line to be chairman, said he’s looking to hold hundreds of hearings on myriad issues from health care to stimulus funding to the national housing meltdown.
While in the minority, Issa was able to maneuver around Towns, forcing his hand, for instance, to subpoena Countrywide Financial – moves that eventually helped Issa gain prominence as a crusader against the White House and congressional Democrats.
In addition to Kucinich, some Democratic aides have Towns in their sights as well.
“A lot of people believe one of our weakest committees is Government Reform,” one leadership aide said. “We’ve allowed Issa to run free, and there hasn’t been a strong Democratic response to everything he’s doing. Not to mention, we’ve had opportunities to bring a lot of ‘bad actors’ before the committee and do our own investigations on health care companies, big oil, looking at the Bush administration that we just didn’t take advantage of it.”
Some Democratic aides are already envisioning scenarios to bolster the committee. One would be to backfill the bench by adding strong junior members to their ranks. Another would be to find another ranking member, perhaps lo