Nadler wins steering panel vote for Judiciary Committee post

Nadler wins steering panel vote for Judiciary Committee post
© Greg Nash

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.), on Tuesday, won the first leg of the race to become the leading Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, marking an early victory for seniority in the contest to replace former Rep. John ConyersJohn James ConyersDemocrats seek cosponsors for new 'Medicare for all' bill Virginia scandals pit Democrats against themselves and their message Women's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC MORE Jr. (Mich.) atop the powerful panel.

The Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee voted 41-18 to recommend Nadler, over Rep. Zoe LofgrenZoe Ellen LofgrenFeminine hygiene products to be available to House lawmakers using congressional funds Whitaker takes grilling from House lawmakers Democrats launch ‘drain-the-swamp’ agenda MORE (D-Calif.), to succeed Conyers, who was forced to resign from Congress earlier this month over a string of sexual harassment allegations.

“It turned out very nicely,” Nadler said, emerging from the meeting in the Capitol basement.

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The vote is just a procedural step, setting up a broader vote among the entire House Democratic Caucus, which will huddle Wednesday morning to decide the ultimate victor. To prompt the second vote of the full caucus, each candidate must win at least 14 votes before the Steering panel — a threshold Lofgren met.

Both Nadler, in his 13th term, and Lofgren, in her 12th, are seasoned veterans with strong liberal bona fides, and both are well respected across the various factions of the Democratic Caucus. Indeed, both candidates are quick to acknowledge there’s little daylight between them when it comes to policy.

Plenty of external political factors, though, are driving the contest.

Nadler is the longer-serving member of the Judiciary Committee — an influential distinction in a Democratic Caucus that’s historically put a premium on seniority. The 49-member Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), for instance, tends to favor the seniority system, which has rewarded its members’ longevity, and House Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDonald Trump proved himself by winning fight for border security Trump should beware the 'clawback' Congress The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season MORE (D-Calif.) has backed that arrangement with few exceptions.

Nadler is also known as the constitutional expert among House Democrats, and his pitch to colleagues in recent weeks has featured the argument that the ongoing investigations into the Trump White House could create a “constitutional crisis” that he’s particularly qualified to manage.

Tuesday’s lopsided vote on the Steering and Policy Committee — a panel over which Pelosi holds notable sway — is some indication that his message has been well accepted.

Still, the Steering and Policy vote is no sure prediction of how the larger caucus will lean. In the 2014 race for the ranking member spot on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooFemale Dems see double standard in Klobuchar accusations Dems urge regulators to reject T-Mobile, Sprint merger House Dems to mull bills to overturn Trump ObamaCare actions MORE (D-Calif.) won the support of the steering committee, only to lose the seat to Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PalloneHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Lawmakers pay tribute to John Dingell's legacy on health care | White House denies officials are sabotaging ObamaCare | FDA wants meeting with Juul, Altria execs on youth vaping Hillicon Valley: Dems ready to subpoena Trump Tower meeting phone records | Dems, Whitaker in standoff over testimony | Bezos accuses National Enquirer of 'extortion' | Amazon offers rules for facial recognition | Apple releases FaceTime fix MORE (D-N.J.) when the full caucus weighed in.

Lofgren, an immigration expert, has won key backing from influential members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, particularly Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.), who see immigration as their most pressing issue in the face of the tough-enforcement approach adopted by the Trump administration.

Lofgren is also making the case that the Judiciary Committee, which has never had a woman in either the chair or ranking member seat in 204 years, is due for a change. Diversity, she emphasizes, is among the factors the caucus is expected to weigh in picking committee leaders. And the ignominious exit of Conyers, she says, only lends additional weight to that argument.

The Democrats will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the Capitol to pick their winner. Rep. Rosa DeLauroRosa Luisa DeLauroPush for paid family leave heats up ahead of 2020 Gillibrand offers to 'sit down' with Trump to discuss family leave Key lawmaker says moment is now for legislation benefiting women MORE (D-Conn.), a co-chairwoman of the steering committee, cautioned against the notion that Nadler’s overwhelming win Tuesday guarantees him the victory.

“You never know in this institution,” she said. “We take ’em one vote at a time.”