'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-CortezOvernight Health Care: Global coronavirus cases top 1M | Cities across country in danger of becoming new hotspots | Trump to recommend certain Americans wear masks | Record 6.6M file jobless claims Trump blasts Schumer over 'incorrect sound bites' on coronavirus Trump warns against 'partisan investigations' after Pelosi establishes select committee on virus response MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibDemocrats eye additional relief checks for coronavirus 20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Pressley, Tlaib introduce bill providing .5B in emergency grants for the homeless MORE (D-Mich.) — are trying to recruit liberal Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben Raskin20 House Dems call on Trump to issue two-week, nationwide shelter-in-place order Senators urge Congress to include election funds in coronavirus stimulus Vote at home saves our democracy and saves lives 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 TrumpCampaigns face attack ad dilemma amid coronavirus crisis Outgoing inspector general says Trump fired him for carrying out his 'legal obligations' Trump hits Illinois governor after criticism: 'I hear him complaining all the time' 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 CummingsMaryland postpones primary over coronavirus fears Maryland governor: 'Simply not enough supplies' on hand to tackle coronavirus Meadows joins White House facing reelection challenges 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 PressleyMaryland Legislative Black Caucus pushes for state to release racial breakdown of coronavirus impact Pressley experiencing flu-like symptoms, being tested for COVID-19 The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senate overcomes hurdles, passes massive coronavirus bill MORE (D-Mass.) — serve on the Oversight panel. The fourth, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTexas man arrested for allegedly threatening Democrats over coronavirus bill Undocumented aliens should stay away as COVID-19 rages in the US The Southern Poverty Law Center and yesterday's wars 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 MaloneyFEMA tells House panel national supply of ventilators running low Stimulus opens new front in Trump's oversight fight Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes MORE (N.Y.), 73, Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchMA lawmakers press HHS secretary on status of state's protective equipment Democrats press World Bank chief on meeting with Ukrainian president amid Trump pressure Biden leads 2020 pack in congressional endorsements MORE (Mass), 64, Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyOPM chief abruptly resigns The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the APTA - Biden looks for Super Tuesday surge; coronavirus fears heighten 'Liberated' Pelosi bashes Trump — and woos Democratic base MORE (Va.), 69, and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierOvernight Defense: Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with outbreak | Trump to expand use of defense law to build ventilators | Hospital ships receiving few patients Aircraft carrier captain removed from duty after pleading for help with coronavirus outbreak House Democrats eyeing much broader Phase 3 stimulus 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. GreenOvernight Energy: Iconic national parks close over coronavirus concerns | New EPA order limits telework post-pandemic | Lawmakers urge help for oil and gas workers Bipartisan lawmakers urge assistance for oil and gas workers Lawmakers shame ex-Wells Fargo directors for failing to reboot bank 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 NortonDC argues it is shortchanged by coronavirus relief bill An inclusive democracy Demands DC statehood Hillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency MORE (D-D.C.) and Rep. Lacy ClayWilliam (Lacy) Lacy ClayDems unlikely to subpoena Bolton Lawmakers honor JFK on 56th anniversary of his death Trump tax breaks for low-income neighborhoods draw scrutiny 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 ClarkPelosi scrambles to secure quick passage of coronavirus aid Democrat says House vote on trillion aid deal could fall to Friday MA lawmakers press HHS secretary on status of state's protective equipment 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 SchiffTrump defends firing of intel watchdog, calling him a 'disgrace' Democrats seize on Trump's firing of intelligence community watchdog Trump fires intelligence community watchdog who flagged Ukraine whistleblower complaint MORE (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHillicon Valley: Facebook reports huge spike in usage during pandemic | Democrats push for mail-in voting funds in coronavirus stimulus | Trump delays deadline to acquire REAL ID Lawmakers urge EU to sanction Putin associate for election interference Democrats press Pompeo to help Americans stranded abroad amid coronavirus MORE (D-N.Y.) and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerHouse Judiciary Committee postpones hearing with Barr amid coronavirus outbreak House Democrats plead with key committee chairman to allow remote voting amid coronavirus pandemic Pelosi rejects calls to shutter Capitol: 'We are the captains of this ship' 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