New York Representative Carolyn Maloney was elected chairwoman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Wednesday after winning a caucus-wide vote for the position, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a news release.

As the most senior member of the panel, Maloney has been serving as acting chairwoman since the October 17th death of Representative Elijah Cummings, but she faced a challenge from Representative Gerry Connolly of Virginia, who argued to his colleagues he was better equipped to handle the rigors of impeachment and battling Republicans intent on protecting the Trump administration from scrutiny. Ultimately, though, Democrats elected Maloney the first woman to head the powerful panel by a vote of 133 to 86.

“The Congress and the country were devastated by the loss of Chairman Elijah Cummings, a master of the House who led the Committee on Oversight and Reform with great honor, integrity and principle,” Pelosi said. “Now, our Caucus has elected Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, a deeply respected and battle-tested leader, to this critical post.”

Maloney’s victory concludes a quiet but momentous race among Democrats to succeed the late Representative Cummings. Maloney will join the trio of lawmakers leading the investigation into President Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, but the House committee is not only important because of its role in the impeachment inquiry. It has also played a major role in taking on issues the Democratic party had with the Trump administration before the Ukraine matter: the committee held hearings on the census citizenship question, the administration’s border policies, and its security clearance policies earlier this year. Moving forward, Maloney will use the power of the gavel to continue these investigations that Cummings began.

“I’m honored by this opportunity to do more for the American people and will do my best to follow the honorable example that Chairman Cummings left for us all,” Maloney said in a statement. “There’s much work to be done.”

Electing Maloney, Democratic leaders sought to avoid an internal battle in the midst of their impeachment inquiry. Maloney, 73, is the committee’s most senior lawmaker and was already acting chairwoman after Cumming’s death. On Tuesday, an important group of Democratic lawmakers formally recommended that she led the panel.

Even though Maloney has not played a central role in some of the House’s most controversial investigations, her supporters argued that a woman should be among the lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry. Democrats have also historically rewarded seniority, and she received the backing of both the Congressional Black Caucus and Representative James E. Clyburn, the number three Democrat.

“That is our tradition,” said Representative Emanuel Cleaver II, a former chair of the caucus. “It would not be in our interest to oppose seniority.”

Maloney has been a member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform since she joined Congress in 1993.

Sources: CNN 11/20/19; NY Times 11/20/19; TWP 11/20/19

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