'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel

'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel
© Greg Nash

Two key members of “The Squad” — progressive freshman Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez rips 'public charge' decision: 'The American Dream isn't a private club with a cover charge' Democrat questions new border chief's involvement in Facebook group with racist, sexist posts The DCCC's 'blacklist' protects a white male political status quo MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants MORE (D-Mich.) — are trying to recruit liberal Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements House Oversight committee asks DHS for information on family separation Maryland Rep. Raskin endorses Warren ahead of Iowa caucus MORE (D-Md.) to run for Oversight Committee chairman, a move that would scramble an already crowded race to head one of the panels leading the impeachment inquiry into President TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE.

Sources familiar with the conversations said Raskin had no plans to run to succeed the panel's previous chairman, the late Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsBaltimore unveils plaques for courthouse to be named after Elijah Cummings GOP leaders encourage retiring lawmakers to give up committee posts Pelosi taps Virginia Democrat for key post on economic panel MORE, a fellow Maryland Democrat who died last week at the age of 68.

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But Raskin, 56, has told Ocasio-Cortez and Tlaib he will give it “serious reflection,” the sources told The Hill on Tuesday.

The congresswomen — who said they represent a contingent of young lawmakers hungry for change on the powerful panel — told Raskin they wanted a liberal firebrand who would undertake “strong and aggressive” oversight of the Trump administration.

Three members of "The Squad" — Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyThe DCCC's 'blacklist' protects a white male political status quo Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (D-Mass.) — serve on the Oversight panel. The fourth, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive MORE (D-Minn.), does not but she called Raskin one of her "favorite" colleagues and said she could back him for chairman.

Raskin “would be a true leader when it comes to holding this Trump administration accountable and especially a leader on this impeachment inquiry,” Tlaib told The Hill in a brief interview before stepping into a closed-door impeachment hearing.

“It would be incredible at this time, with the actions being taken by this administration, to have a constitutional law professor lead the fight in the House Oversight Committee.”

A top Democratic leader described Raskin as extremely smart and talented, but described his longshot victory in the battle for the Oversight post as “unlikely but not impossible.”

Raskin’s possible entry in the race would pit a rising-star, sophomore lawmaker against a quartet of older, more senior lawmakers who are running or expected to run for the top Oversight job. 

Reps. Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn Bosher MaloneyHouse passes bill aimed at bolstering Holocaust education Government privacy watchdog under pressure to recommend facial recognition ban House Oversight committee asks DHS for information on family separation MORE (N.Y.), 73, Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchBiden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements Election security, ransomware dominate cyber concerns for 2020 Hillicon Valley: Groups file appeal over net neutrality ruling | Lawmakers raise concerns over foreign apps | Payroll data stolen from Facebook MORE (Mass), 64, Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyTrump, Democrats set for brawl on Iran war powers Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers Democrats 'utterly unpersuaded' by evidence behind Soleimani strike MORE (Va.), 69, and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierSenator-jurors who may not be impartial? Remove them for cause Poll: 69 percent of Americans say they are watching impeachment closely The Hill's Morning Report — Impeachment face-off; Dems go after Buttigieg in debate MORE (Calif.), 69, have all started calling and buttonholing fellow Oversight members and members of the influential Steering Committee, which eventually will make a recommendation to the full caucus about who should fill the job on a permanent basis. 

Maloney, who is the most senior member on the panel, is serving as acting chairwoman and has told colleagues she will seek the permanent role. And both Speier and Lynch have publicly stated they are running.

Connolly has not officially declared, saying he wanted to delay his decision out of respect for Cummings. But he privately began informing colleagues this week he intends to jump into the race very soon.

“I’m taking soundings,” Connolly told The Hill on Tuesday. “What I mean by that is I’m talking to leadership, talking to Steering Committee members, talking to colleagues on the committee and off the committee.”

When told that Democratic colleagues believe he will run, Connolly replied: “They are certainly not wrong about my passion for the race and my desire to make my contribution at a time that is very critical for the country.”

Oversight is one of three committees leading the impeachment investigation into Trump — along with Intelligence and Foreign Affairs — and some Democrats have suggested that a more polished communicator like Speier or Connolly, who are both a frequent presence on cable news shows, would be a stronger chair for a high-stakes moment in politics.

Raskin, too, is a respected communicator and frequent guest on MSNBC. The former American University constitutional law professor has also been a sherpa of sorts for House Democrats navigating constitutional issues, including impeachment and the Emoluments Clause.

But Maloney appears to have the backing of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. While the 53-member CBC has not formally endorsed Maloney, many of its members have said they are backing the 14-term New York congresswoman because she is the most senior member.

“I always value seniority and I’m going to continue to support seniority,” said Rep. Al GreenAlexander (Al) N. GreenThe Memo: Will Iran crisis sideline impeachment process? Green says House shouldn't hold impeachment articles indefinitely GOP set to make life difficult for Democrats on impeachment MORE (D-Texas), a CBC member. “Because in the long run, seniority benefits all of us, including CBC members.”

After Maloney, the most senior members of the committee are two veteran African American lawmakers: Del. Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonBicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers Overnight Energy: Mark Ruffalo pushes Congress on 'forever chemicals' | Lawmakers spar over actor's testimony | House Dems unveil renewable energy tax plan | Funding for conservation program passes Senate hurdle Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-D.C.) and Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayLawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman MORE (D-Mo.), neither of whom are running this time around.

However, some Democrats pointed out that it was Cummings who beat out a more senior Maloney in the race to lead the Oversight panel back in 2010. The CBC backed Cummings in that contest.

The Oversight vacancy created by Cummings’s death will be filled permanently during the second week of November after a two-week congressional recess, said Rep. Katherine ClarkKatherine Marlea ClarkSanders, Warren battle for progressive endorsements Democrats ramp up calls for war powers vote after Iran strike Nearly all Democrats expected to back articles of impeachment MORE (D-Mass.), the Democratic caucus vice chairwoman.

The Speaker-aligned Steering Committee, which includes members of leadership and regional representatives, will hear from the candidates first and make a recommendation to the full Democratic caucus. Those 234 Democrats will then vote on whether or not to accept the recommendation.

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Lynch, who chairs Oversight’s National Security subcommittee, touted his background as a former attorney in his pitch for the gavel.

"I'm an attorney, so I'm familiar with multi-party and complex litigation. That's sort of what we've got going on between us and the White House and State Department and the courts,” Lynch said. “So I think I can help a great deal in that respect.”

While some Democrats are emphasizing seniority, others are arguing that diversity should be a factor. If Lynch or Connolly are selected, these Democrats said, that will mean there will be four white male committee chairmen leading the impeachment probe of Trump. The others are Intelligence Chairman Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffRepublicans show little enthusiasm for impeachment witness swap Meadows: Republicans who break with Trump could face political repercussions Schiff: Senate cannot have 'meaningful trial' without Bolton MORE (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelTrump to release Israeli-Palestinian peace plan on Tuesday US officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't MORE (D-N.Y.) and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerPelosi says House will vote on bill to repeal travel ban Nadler to miss a day of impeachment trial due to wife's cancer treatment Impeachment manager dismisses concerns Schiff alienated key Republican votes: 'This isn't about any one person' MORE (D-N.Y.).

“I think Jackie would be stronger for this moment because she is a good communicator and sits on the Intelligence Committee too,” said one House Democrat, “but Maloney may be better for the long haul because of her experience.”

– Cristina Marcos contributed