The Race to Be the Next House Democrat Overseeing Feds Has Begun
The outgoing oversight panel leader who lost her primary had an extensive legacy with federal management issues, but at least one new contender also has established credentials.
The top House Democrat with direct oversight of federal agencies and their workforces lost her bid for reelection on Tuesday, opening up a race for the position with a key stake in issues affecting civil servants.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., was the first lawmaker to throw his hat into the ring on Wednesday, following House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney’s, D-N.Y., loss in her primary race against Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y. The two New Yorkers faced off after redistricting forced them to vie for the same seat. Maloney chaired the oversight panel since Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., died in October 2019.
Two Democrats on Tuesday announced their intention to contend for the committee position, which could become a ranking member slot if Republicans take control of the House in the midterm elections as expected. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., is the longest-serving member of the committee, but said on Wednesday she would follow through with an earlier pledge to seek the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chair. Norton said overseeing the implementation of the new infrastructure spending and the Inflation Reduction Act would allow her to better serve her constituents. Norton, a vocal advocate for federal employees, has previously expressed interest in chairing the oversight committee, but ceded the position to Maloney.
Connolly ran against Maloney in 2019 for the position, losing in a 133-86 vote. He represents tens of thousands of federal workers and has a long history of championing them, as well as a focus on improving agency management and modernizing government technology. He has served as the top Democrat on the Government Operations Subcommittee for several congresses, leading on issues such as larger pay raises, telework expansion, U.S. Postal Service oversight and maintaining civil service protections after President Trump briefly attempted to upend them.
Joining Connolly in the race is Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Mass., another lawmaker with a history of advocacy for the federal workforce and the Postal Service. Lynch has been ranking member of multiple subcommittees, serving in one of those positions for the last 17 years.
"I have fought proudly against Republican legislative attacks designed to curb critical safety regulations, abrogate the fundamental employments rights of federal employees, privatize and dismantle the Postal Service and infringe on D.C. Home Rule," Lynch said in a letter to colleagues, calling himself "well prepared to serve at this pivotal moment in our history."
Reps. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., and Ro Khanna, D-Calif., are also weighing whether to seek the position, according to mulitple reports. Connolly, meanwhile, thanked Maloney for her tenure and vowed to continue her and Cummings’ legacy, if elected.
“For more than fourteen years, I have made this committee my top priority and focused on the issues that define it: postal reform; defending our proud federal employees; rooting out waste, fraud, and abuse; modernizing the federal government; and holding the Trump administration accountable,” Connolly said.
With Maloney’s departure, the oversight committee will lose its fiercest advocate for paid family leave for federal workers. The congresswoman helped negotiate a deal with the Trump administration to provide 12 weeks of paid time off for any employee having, adopting or fostering a new child, and has since sought to expand those benefits. Connolly has also supported those efforts. Maloney was instrumental in passing the 2022 Postal Service Reform Act, which President Biden signed into law earlier this year. Virtually every oversight chair since 2010 has sought to pass a similar bill, which significantly lightened the financial burdens on the mailing agency, though Maloney was able to work carefully with Republicans and postal stakeholders to get the measure through.
The next top Democrat on the panel will face a combative majority if Republicans take control of the House, as the party has already promised investigations into the Biden administration and the president’s family. If Democrats surprise election forecasters and maintain the majority, they will likely continue investigations into the Trump administration and facilitate the spending of mass influxes of funding across government they helped deliver over the last two years.
Maloney led the charge on Trump oversight, including pushing measures to combat the former president’s unprecedented attacks on inspectors general. She led investigations into the Trump Organization’s controversial hotel lease with the General Services Administration that raised concerns of a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Maloney helped spearhead oversight of the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on multiple fronts, including individual agencies’ coronavirus procedures, the vast misgivings about actions by top Trump officials and a troubled vaccine manufacturer in Baltimore. Maloney is a member of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. More recently, she has worked to hold the Biden administration accountable for its response to the monkeypox outbreak.
Connolly said he was the lawmaker best positioned to carry on that work.
“Our caucus must continue to repair the damage left by the Trump administration, while also protecting the progress made by President Biden and our Democratic majorities,” Connolly said. “We need a tested leader who will not be timid in the face of Republican insurrectionists. One who has a deep understanding of the issues facing our committee and our country. A collaborator who can be a bridge to our talented and diverse caucus. I believe I can be that leader, and look forward to earning the support of my colleagues.”
Courtney Bublé contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with additional details on the candidates to replace Maloney.