Rep. Carolyn Maloney
(D-N.Y.) will fill in as acting chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee following the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings
Cummings served as the committee’s top Democrat since 2011 as both the ranking minority member and chairman until his passing early Thursday from long-running health problems.
Maloney is the next in seniority on the Oversight and Reform Committee, which under House rules means that she becomes acting chairwoman in the event of a sudden vacancy, a leadership aide said.
The aide said that the Democratic caucus process to elect a permanent chair will be announced at a later time.
Maloney had previously sought the top Democratic slot on the Oversight panel in December 2010, but Cummings beat her out for the ranking member post even though she ranked higher in seniority at the time.
Maloney will take over as acting chairwoman during a critical stretch in the early stages of Democrats’ impeachment inquiry.
In a statement on Cummings’s death, Maloney called him “a dear friend and mentor.”
“In an era where our politics have been plagued by coarseness and personal attacks, Elijah represented grace, dignity and empathy under the most trying of circumstances,” Maloney said.
Maloney drew attention in 2012 when Republicans controlled the House during a hearing that included discussion about the Obama administration’s regulation that health insurance cover contraception.
The hearing’s first panel of five witnesses did not include any women, prompting Maloney to ask repeatedly: “Where are the women?”
Cummings, who represented Baltimore, had not been seen at the Capitol in the last two weeks for closed-door witness testimony. But he had signed off on a flurry of subpoenas issued by the Oversight and Reform, Intelligence, and Foreign Affairs committees in recent weeks.
Maloney has served in the House since 1993 representing a district based in Manhattan.
Clay declined to say Thursday if he would be interested in pursuing the vacancy, but didn’t rule it out either.
“I have no interest in discussing this today,” Clay said. “This man has just passed within the last 12 hours.”
Clay said that discussion of a successor for Cummings would “come another day.”
Another Democrat in the mix to fill the vacancy left by Cummings could be Rep. Gerry Connolly
(D-Va.), who chairs the Government Operations subcommittee.
The normally talkative Connolly, leaving a closed-door whip meeting on Thursday, appeared visibly emotional and declined to comment to reporters.
Democratic leaders mourned Cummings’s passing during the meeting, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi
(D-Calif.), who noted their mutual connection to Baltimore, and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
(D-Md.), the dean of the Maryland delegation, according to lawmakers in the room.
“She’s personally shocked and hurt,” Rep. Hank Johnson
(D-Ga.) said of Pelosi. “But she’s pressing forward. But she knows that that is what he would want her to do.”
Pelosi announced at a news conference that Democrats’ bill to address the cost of prescription drugs would be named after Cummings, who had made the issue one of his top priorities.
Updated: 2:35 p.m.