Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) is running to be the chairwoman of the powerful Oversight and Reform Committee, one of three House panels leading the impeachment probe into President Trump, Speier told The Hill on Wednesday night.
“I am,” Speier replied when asked if she was vying to succeed the late Oversight chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who died last week at age 68 and will lie in state in the Capitol on Thursday.
Speier’s official entry into the race pits her against acting Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), who is now the most senior Democrat on the panel and seeking the job permanently.
Speier is much lower on the seniority ladder but she said she has served on the committee since she got elected in 2008. She also serves on a second committee involved in the month-old impeachment probe, the Intelligence panel.
Speier, 69, represents a San Francisco Bay Area district that is adjacent to that of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and is a close Pelosi friend and ally. She is most well-known for surviving five gunshot wounds during the 1978 assassination of her boss, then-Rep Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), during the Jonestown massacre in Guyana.
Thirty years later, she won his old congressional seat.
In a brief interview outside the Capitol, Speier said she personally informed both Pelosi and Maloney of her decision to run to lead Oversight.
“We’re good friends,” Speier said of Maloney.
The Washington Post earlier this week reported that Speier was running for the Oversight gavel, citing anonymous sources.
Some Democrats have been hoping to avoid a heated, contested race for the Oversight gavel, warning that it would be a distraction during a crucial stretch of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. These Democrats believe Maloney, 73, should keep the job — at least through the 2020 cycle.
If Pelosi tells the 234-member Democratic Caucus she doesn’t want a messy fight for the gavel, Speier said she will back off. But so far, Pelosi has not weighed in, in deference to Cummings. A memorial service for the late chairman will be held in Statuary Hall on Thursday; a funeral service will be held Friday in his native Baltimore.
“I think I would leave that in the hands of the Speaker to make that decision,” Speier said in the interview. “I’ve spoken to the Speaker and she is not doing anything until after the funerals” for Cummings.
“I’m going to respect the Speaker. If she says ‘No race,’ then there won’t be a race,” Speier added. “She hasn’t said that and she’s not going say anything until [later].”
Despite her entry into the race, Speier said she has not been actively campaigning for the job: “We need to celebrate an incredible leader right now.”
Connolly, 69, said it’s too early to have the gavel conversation, with the memorials to Cummings not yet passed. But he left open the idea of seeking the chairmanship afterwards.
Under caucus rules, Democrats have 30 days to decide how to permanently replace Cummings.
“Obviously, I’d be interested, but that’s a different question than, ‘What are you going to do?’” Connolly said. “Right now I’m focused on doing my job and getting ready for Elijah’s lying in state and the funeral.”
Mike Lillis contributed.