Nadler wins top Dem spot on Judiciary

Keren Carrion

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday won the top Democratic spot on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, beating back a challenge from Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) to fill the seat held by former Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) for almost a quarter century.
The House Democratic Caucus voted 118 to 72 in favor of Nadler, a 13-term Manhattanite known for his constitutional expertise.
{mosads}The vote marks a victory for the seniority system that could have outsized implications if the Democrats win back the House in 2018 and the investigations into Russia’s election meddling turn up any damning evidence against the Trump administration.
Among the host of hot-button issues under the Judiciary panel’s jurisdiction is that of impeachment — a factor highlighted by Nadler in pitching his colleagues in the weeks leading up to Wednesday’s vote. 
After his victory, Nadler characterized the political moment as “a critical time” in the country’s history — one he thinks he’s uniquely qualified to confront.
“Our efforts to hold the administration and those wishing to turn back history’s long arc towards justice accountable are central to the defense of progress and democracy,” Nadler said. 
“We must fight to protect the rule of law, strengthen our safety and security from enemies foreign and domestic, shield Americans’ rights and liberties from encroachment, and guarantee that all people, no matter their age, race, gender, religion, ability, finances, nationality, or sexual orientation, are treated fairly and equally.”
Lofgren, a 12-term liberal representing the San Francisco Bay Area, also has some experience with the impeachment process, having participated in both the Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton proceedings. She was a Judiciary staffer at the time of the Nixon hearings and a sitting member during the Clinton proceedings. But Lofgren had downplayed Trump’s potential impeachment as too uncertain and premature to dictate the race for Judiciary ranking member.
An immigration attorney, Lofgren had waged her campaign promoting the idea that she was best suited to push back against the Trump administration’s immigration policies, which have focused heavily on enforcement and deportations.
“Zoe probably had an edge there,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the former head of the Democratic Caucus. “And on the Constitution, Jerry had an edge.” 
Still, there’s been little daylight between Nadler and Lofgren on the issues over the years. And the contest, pitting two popular and feisty veteran lawmakers with similar policy ideals, left the Democrats weighing a host of factors that had little to do with the committee’s workload, including issues of seniority, region and gender.
Lofgren had emphasized that the Judiciary Committee has never had a female chair or ranking member since its inception in 1813. Amid the national wave of sexual harassment allegations that have toppled figures in Hollywood, the media and Congress — a trend that led to Conyers’s ignominious resignation earlier this month — Lofgren argued that it was time for a woman to take charge of the panel.
Yet a number of female lawmakers raced to Nadler’s defense, noting his long track record defending women’s rights — a history that led to a rare endorsement from NARAL, a leading abortion-rights group, in the race against Lofgren.
“Jerry has not only supported women’s rights and dignity, but he has made that a priority through his entire career,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who spoke up for Nadler before Wednesday’s vote, said afterwards. 
“He was often the only man in the room when we were talking about contraception or abortion.” 
Nadler was also the senior member of the committee, lending him an advantage in a Democratic Caucus that’s historically rewarded long-serving members with plum committee posts. Wednesday’s vote sent a message that the caucus, despite the emergence of a younger crop of lawmakers eager to climb the ranks of power, still puts a premium on seniority.
Larson said because both Nadler and Lofgren are well respected across the caucus, the contest was a win-win for the Democrats.
“Either one of them would have been great,” he said after the vote. 
“There would have been no loser no matter what.”
This story was updated at 11:53 a.m.
Tags Bill Clinton Jan Schakowsky John Conyers John Larson Zoe Lofgren
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