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Updated: 7:46 p.m.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) will face off Wednesday morning against Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) for the ranking member position on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the 112th Congress.
They announced their intentions Tuesday evening after the surprising announcement from committee Chairman Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) that he was dropping out of the race. Maloney follows Towns in seniority among Democrats on the panel, with Cummings behind her.
“After much thought, Chairman Towns today made the decision not to seek the Ranking Member position on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee,” committee spokeswoman Jenny Rosenberg said in a statement Tuesday.
Maloney sent a letter promoting her bid to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning to decide which Members it will recommend for several ranking member positions, including for Oversight and Government Reform.
“Since coming to Congress in 1993, I have been a member of OGR and have been a strong and vocal voice in defending the Census, reviewing government contracts, and ensuring general oversight over government agencies,” Maloney wrote. “I have a strong record of digging deep into the issues, asking tough questions, and fighting back.”
Maloney further cited her seniority on the committee and said she would be the first woman to serve as ranking member of the panel.
Cummings spent the afternoon calling colleagues. “I’ve talked to everybody who would listen,” he said.
If he is successful in obtaining the ranking member position on the panel, the Maryland Democrat said he would make sure that incoming Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) does not go on “fishing expeditions” to try to embarrass Democrats.
“We’ll go toe to toe on everything and hopefully be 10 steps ahead,” Cummings said.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), who ranks behind Cummings on the panel, had previously announced his intention to challenge Towns for the post, but he supported Cummings on Tuesday.
“When I announced my candidacy for Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I did so out of concern for a strong Democratic response [to] Chairman Issa,” Kucinich said in a statement. “Even before I announced my candidacy, I made it clear to members across the caucus that I thought that Congressman Cummings would be able to meet the challenge, and that if he was a candidate, I would support him.”
Cummings also has the support of Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.). Butterfield said that it is important for a member of the Congressional Black Caucus to maintain the position and that Cummings has the right background to fight back against Issa.
“He’ll be able to stand formidably” against Issa, Butterfield said.