'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 on food assistance cuts: 'If this happened then, we might've just starved' Youth climate activists grade top 2020 Democrats on Green New Deal commitment Sanders to join youth climate strikers in Iowa MORE (D-N.Y.) and Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibHouse moves ahead on long-stalled resolution supporting two states for Israelis and Palestinians GOP leader says he had 'a hard time' believing Pelosi Al Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles MORE (D-Mich.) — are trying to recruit liberal Rep. Jamie RaskinJamin (Jamie) Ben RaskinLawmakers to watch during Wednesday's impeachment hearing Pelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Five questions looming over impeachment 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 TrumpTrumps light 97th annual National Christmas Tree Trump to hold campaign rally in Michigan 'Don't mess with Mama': Pelosi's daughter tweets support following press conference comments 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 CummingsImpeachment can't wait Adam Schiff's star rises with impeachment hearings Tucker Carlson calls Trump 'full-blown BS artist' in segment defending him from media coverage 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 PressleyAl Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Warren adds Ayanna Pressley as campaign co-chair Warren speech in Georgia interrupted by pro-charter school protesters MORE (D-Mass.) — serve on the Oversight panel. The fourth, Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarAl Green calls for including Trump's 'racism' in impeachment articles Republicans disavow GOP candidate who said 'we should hang' Omar Hillicon Valley: Trump officials propose retaliatory tariffs over French digital tax | FBI classifies FaceApp as threat | Twitter revamps policies to comply with privacy laws | Zuckerberg defends political ads policy 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 MaloneyDemocrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week Two budget staffers resigned after voicing concerns about halted Ukraine aid, official says On The Money: Dems say Ukraine aid documents from OMB show 'pattern of abuse' | Blue states file appeal over GOP tax law deduction cap | Dems sue Barr, Ross over census documents MORE (N.Y.), 73, Stephen LynchStephen Francis LynchMaloney wins House Oversight gavel Maloney wins vote for Oversight chairwoman Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees MORE (Mass), 64, Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyDemocrats debate scope of impeachment charges House Democrats rebuke State Department for 'reversal' on Israeli settlements Maloney wins House Oversight gavel MORE (Va.), 69, and Jackie SpeierKaren (Jackie) Lorraine Jacqueline SpeierPelosi faces tough choices on impeachment managers Speier to call on IG investigation into Navy chief's firing Nunes faces potential ethics review over alleged meeting with Ukrainian official 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. GreenHouse sets up Monday hearing to hear evidence on Trump impeachment The Hill's Morning Report - Dem dilemma on articles of impeachment Democrats debate scope of impeachment charges 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 ClarkThe Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing 'Squad' members recruit Raskin to run for Oversight gavel House passes third bill aimed at preventing foreign election interference 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 SchiffWhite House adopts confident tone after Pelosi signals go on impeachment Democrats could introduce articles of impeachment next week The shifting impeachment positions of Jonathan Turley MORE (D-Calif.), Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse leaders: Trump administration asking South Korea to pay more for US troops 'a needless wedge' Trump administration releases 5M in military aid for Lebanon after months-long delay Two budget staffers resigned after voicing concerns about halted Ukraine aid, official says MORE (D-N.Y.) and Judiciary Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerTurley: Democrats offering passion over proof in Trump impeachment GOP lawmaker: 'Amazing' Democrats would ask if Founding Fathers would back Trump impeachment Trump asks if Democrats 'love our country' amid ongoing impeachment hearing 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