Last night, it appeared that Elijah Cummings would attempt to leapfrog seniority and obtain the ranking membership of the House Oversight Committee with the backing of outgoing ranking member Ed Towns. However, Towns reversed course last night, saying in a statement, “I support Carolyn Maloney to become Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee. She is next in line on the Committee, she has the seniority and competence to serve the Caucus well.”

This changes the dynamic a bit, but still sets up a battle. Maloney now has the backing of the former chair, but Cummings has the backing of the other main rival, Dennis Kucinich. There have been enough reports that Democratic leaders would rather see Cummings in the role of counter-pointing Darrell Issa than Maloney that I can see them working behind the scenes to ensure that. But Maloney has the support of multiple women’s groups, including NOW and Feminist Majority, who headed up a letter to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee last night. Ultimately, that body will make a recommendation on this matter, though the caucus can choose not to go with that recommendation and support a different candidate.

Maloney’s own letter to the Steering Committee highlights many of her accomplishments, and concludes, “I pledge to be a tough adversary and a strong fighter as Ranking Member.” Maloney was working the phones late last night to drum up support for the ranking membership.

Either member would be an improvement over Towns, who often appeared unequipped to handle the spotlight and certainly no match for Issa on the committee. These leadership battles are often ugly, and the seniority system isn’t really the most useful. But who ends up in these roles does matter.

David Dayen

David Dayen