As members of Congress mourn the loss of Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the question of who will take his place as the head of the House Oversight Committee quietly looms in the background.
As the New York Times reports, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney of New York, who is now the most senior Democrat on the panel, will serve as acting chair, according to House rules. Caucus rules dictate that a new, permanent leader for the committee must be elected within 30 calendar days.
The Oversight Committee has been playing a pivotal role in the impeachment inquiry against Donald Trump, and even during the week of his death, Cummings was actively working behind the scenes, communicating daily with Speaker Nancy Pelosi as to the status of the inquiry, according to the Times. That, the Times reports, is in contrast to Maloney, who has “ played little role in the inquiry, or in the oversight panel’s other efforts to scrutinize the inner workings of the Trump administration.”
It is expected that in her acting role as committee chair, Maloney will mostly stay in the background and sign joint letters and subpoenas issued to members of the Trump administration along with the House Intelligence and Foreign Affairs committees.
Democrats have historically favored seniority when choosing committee leaders, and with 14 terms under her belt, Maloney—who is 73 years old—is the most senior Democrat at this time. That, however, made no difference in 2010, when Cummings—who had three years’ less time in Congress than she did—beat her for the chairman position.
So who are the possible successors to the throne, so to speak?
The Times posits that Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia, the No. 6 Democrat on the committee, who has taken a more active role in the inquiry, could present a considerable challenge. The one knock against him is the reprimands he has received for his perceived “aggressive tactics” in the hearing room. This week, he was called out for reportedly breaking committee rules by discussing the details of a closed deposition with an impeachment witness.
Rep. William Lacy Clay, Jr. of Missouri, whose father William L. Clay helped to found the Congressional Black Caucus, is the No. 3 Dem on the committee, but when asked Thursday if he would seek to take over as chair, he told reporters “I have no interest in discussing this today. That’ll come another day.”
Then there’s Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, who the Times describes as a possible “wild card” pick with ambitions to move up in the House leadership ranks. He is what the paper calls a “safe” interim choice.
In the meantime, Elijah Cummings was so revered that the Times reports Republicans took a day off from bashing the impeachment inquiry to mourn his death:
Republicans put off their plan to force a vote to censure Mr. Schiff on the House floor, a resolution led by Representative Andy Biggs of Arizona, the chairman of the Freedom Caucus. Representative Matt Gaetz, Republican of Florida, postponed a rally where he and over two dozen House Republicans had planned to accuse Democrats of leading an opaque impeachment process.
“Many are in mourning and we hope that peace and comfort can enter the hearts of those who cared for Elijah,” Mr. Gaetz wrote on Twitter.
In his eulogy on the House floor, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, recalled his conference’s own difficulties in selecting a lawmaker to go head-to-head with Mr. Cummings on the committee, noting that Republicans always knew they would need to find someone “tough.”
Elijah Cummings will definitely be missed and hard to replace on this increasingly important committee.