Ed Towns Steps Aside as Top Democrat on Oversight Committee

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There have been rumblings for about a month that current Oversight Committee Chairman Ed Towns would somehow get pushed aside from that post. Whether or not he was, Towns announced today that he's stepping aside as the top committee Democrat.

"After much thought, Chairman Towns today made the decision not to seek the Ranking Member position on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee," his communications director, Jenny Thalheimer Rosenberg, said in a written statement released to reporters Tuesday evening.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (OH), the liberal firebrand whose position in the House may be threatened by redistricting, is running for the post. Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) is another likely replacement, perhaps even more likely than Kucinich, given that Kucinich has criticized Obama's handling of the war in Afghanistan and has been known to buck the party leadership (like, for instance, when he went against the wishes of Speaker Pelosi to force votes on impeaching President Bush and VP Dick Cheney).

The rumblings about Towns went like this: Some Democrats weren't sure that Towns, who isn't much of a loud, attention-grabbing/generating lawmaker to begin with, wouldn't provide an adequate counterweight to the incoming Republican chairman, Darrell Issa, who will have the ability to make things uncomfortable for the Obama administration with his newfound subpoena power. Again, those were just rumblings, and it remains unconfirmed whether such opinions were actually held by any Democratic members themselves.

Towns, who represents Brooklyn, enjoyed a good relationship with Issa, preferring a relationship-building style to the fireworks that would ensue if Kucinich were to secure the top slot.

More as this develops...


UPDATE:

A two-way race is underway for the top Democratic slot on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, with Kucinich taking himself out of the running.

As I neglected to mention above, the next most senior committee Democrat is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents the Eastern half of Manhattan and part of Queens. Maloney could potentially succeed Towns on the committee.

As Firedoglake reports, Kucinich has dropped his candidacy. Cummings has now announced he'll run for the job, releasing this statement to press:
In light of the decision by my esteemed Chairman and colleague, Rep. Edolphus Towns, not to seek the Ranking Member position, I am asking for the support of my colleagues for my candidacy for Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
 
"The incoming Chairman, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA) has announced his intention to seek as many as 280 hearings in 2011 alone, in pursuit of obstructing some of the most significant legislative achievements from the 111th Congress and undermining the current Administration. The Democratic Caucus must not cede to the new House Majority that wishes to move our nation backward, and must take every opportunity to defend against partisan attacks and the dismantling of policies that ensure security for hardworking Americans.
 
"Therefore, if elected to the position of Ranking Member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, I pledge not to allow the Committee to tie the hands of our President and federal workforce preventing them from fulfilling their duties to protect and serve the American people.  I have deep confidence in the strength and talents of the Democratic Caucus, and pledge to consistently seek collaboration among the Democratic Members of the Committee.  Finally, I will seek opportunities to work with Chairman Issa and the new Majority on a bipartisan basis whenever they arise.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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