Two key blocs of the Democratic caucus are backing Rep. Edolphus Towns of New York for the top Democratic slot on the House oversight committee, giving the embattled Towns momentum in his quest for the seat after far-left Rep. Dennis Kucinich officially put his bid in Wednesday.
The Congressional Black Caucus’s chairwoman Rep. Barbara Lee sent a letter late Wednesday urging Democrats to support Towns. Lee praised Towns’s “record of achievement on issues important to all Americans, and especially communities of color.”
Thursday, all 25 House Democrats representing districts in New York signed a letter backing Towns’s bid as well.
“During the coming Congress, we will need determined and tenacious leadership to battle any partisan attacks on the administration that Republicans may launch. Ed Towns will provide that leadership,” the letter says.
The CBC included 42 members in the 111th Congress, four of whom are New Yorkers.
The two blocs form a large core of support for Towns and may make an insurmountable hurdle for Kucinich.
The top signatory on the letter from New Yorkers is Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the second in seniority on the oversight committee. Maloney would be next in line if Towns stepped down, but top Democrats had sought to bypass her and instead tap Rep. Elijah Cummings from Maryland to keep an African American as the head of the committee.
With large blocs rallying to Towns, though, it appears Democrats will be stuck with him for the committee’s top Democratic slot.
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.