By Susan Crabtree - 12/16/10 10:30 PM EST
Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) took a swipe at Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday in a terse letter complaining that she pushed him from the top of the Oversight panel.
Towns referenced the Democrats’ loss of 63 House seats in the letter, which demanded his return to the Energy and Commerce panel with full seniority rights.
“After losing 63 seats in the midterm election and now finding ourselves in the minority in the 112th Congress, I decided to withdraw my candidacy following a conversation with you when you made it clear that I did not have your support,” he said.
Towns surprised colleagues and staff by announcing Tuesday he was stepping down as the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee. He threw his support to Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the next most senior Democratic member of the panel and fellow member of the New York delegation.
Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, had long worried about Towns’s ability to go toe to toe with incoming Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has promised to investigate all corners of the Obama administration.
Leaders, including Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), believed Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) could be a more formidable foil for Issa. Clyburn spoke to Towns earlier this week and urged him to step aside. In a brief contest for the ranking spot, Cummings defeated Maloney Thursday in a 33-18 vote of the Democratic Steering Committee. The full caucus is expected to vote on the Steering panel’s recommendation later Thursday.
After losing the majority, Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) launched a brief campaign against Towns for the ranking position, arguing that the caucus needed a stronger member in the top Democratic post in order to stand up to Issa. After Towns said he was stepping aside, Kucinch quickly endorsed Cummings.
In his letter, Towns reclaimed his seat on the Energy and Commerce panel with full seniority and “all rights and privileges,” insisting that Pelosi allow him to benefit from the past practice of maintaining a seat on that panel as well as Oversight.
“I have held a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee since 1989,” he said. “I would like to have this done expeditiously before the close of the 111th Congress.”
He signed the letter “respectfully, Edolphus 'Ed' Towns.”