House Democrats voted Thursday to make Rep. Jamie Raskin (Md.) the top Democrat on the powerful Oversight and Reform Committee in the next Congress, a pivotal role in the defense of President Biden as Republicans prepare to take control of the lower chamber next year.
Raskin, a six-year House veteran, defeated Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) in the closed-door, secret-ballot vote on Capitol Hill, where the full caucus gathered to finalize their committee roster heading into the 118th Congress.
A third member of the committee, Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), had also been a part of the race to replace the current Oversight chair, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who lost an August primary to Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). Lynch dropped out of the contest after he placed third in last week’s vote of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, an influential panel that helps to guide the party’s committee assignments, leaving Raskin and Connolly to face off before the full caucus on Thursday.
Connolly was the more senior of the two on the Oversight panel — a relevant distinction in a party that’s traditionally favored seniority when choosing top committee spots.
Yet the preference given to committee veterans has eroded gradually in recent years. And Raskin, a former constitutional law professor, has built a sturdy national profile in his short time on Capitol Hill, leading the House’s second impeachment of former President Trump after last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol, and later joining the select committee investigating the riot.
Raskin had argued that his legal background made him the best candidate for the position. Connolly had countered that his long experience in the Oversight trenches made him the better fit.
The Oversight panel, with subpoena authority and a broad mandate to probe federal affairs, is among the most powerful panels in Congress. And with Republicans set to take control of the House next year, the position of ranking member will assume even greater importance.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who is in line to lead the Oversight panel next year, is already promising a host of investigations into topics as varied — and controversial — as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the origins of the coronavirus and the international business dealings of Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
—Updated at 12:42 p.m.