Far-left Rep. Dennis Kucinich made the boldest public comments yet late Monday regarding Democrats’ growing sense that Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York may not be their best shot at standing up to President Obama’s chief congressional tormentor, California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, on the Oversight Committee in the next Congress.
“I’m going to be talking to my colleagues about what would be the best route to take to ensure that the oversight responsibilities of the Congress will, in fact, not be compromised,” Kucinich told TV host Ed Shultz on MSNBC.
Democrats will “have to make the decision about who they think would be best ready to take this challenge because it is a challenge,” Kucinich said.
As The Daily Caller reported Friday, the Obama White House is said to want Towns out because he is seen as a liability to Obama with Issa set to achieve subpoena power come January when Republicans take over the House.
The problem Democrats face, two well-placed sources tell TheDC, is that replacing Towns with Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the second most senior Democrat on the panel, is considered politically unpalatable.
This is especially so given the contentious fight over minority whip where Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina was pressured to forgo his challenge of Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland for the leadership position. Edging out a second African-American in leadership with a white member of Congress is not feasible given the political dynamics of the Democratic Caucus.
Instead, top Democrats sought to bypass Maloney and install Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, an African American, who is third in seniority on the committee.
Maloney, who values her work on the committee highly, said no. The nine-term New Yorker is also described as sensitive to the importance of seniority.
But after a weekend that saw the resolution of the Hoyer-Clyburn fight, the battle over the top slot in the oversight committee appears still alive, at least according to Kucinich.
In saying he was “talking to my colleagues” about “who would be best ready to take this challenge” of leading the Democrats on the oversight committee, Kucinich implied the Democrats’ current chairman, Towns, might not be the “best” for the slot and could be replaced.
In contrast, Cummings said to Shultz later on the show Monday that “Mr. Towns is the ranking member, I support him and he will be the ranking member,” appearing to close the door on the matter.
The ranking member position is critical for Democrats because Issa will attain subpoena power in January, giving him access to virtually any documents in the White House’s file cabinets.
But Issa faces risks nearly as great as Obama in the high-stakes oversight dance for he could easily be seen as overreaching, insiders say.
Towns is vowing to hit Issa with “a little Bed-Stuy toughness,” his press secretary says, referring to Brooklyn, New York, which he represents, but his proclamations are doing little to assuage a bipartisan view Issa has run roughshod over Towns as ranking member in the last two years.
With Maloney and now Cummings backing Towns, Kucinich’s bid for the slot is a wild-card.
Kucinich is seen by Republicans as a potentially tough adversary for Issa, but also too “crazy” — too far to the left to really match up with Issa. Kucinich’s press secretary denied knowledge of the congressman’s interest in the position Friday.