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Patrick Richardson

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December 17, 2010 - 1:51 pm
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In a bare statement with no hint of his reason, current chairman and presumptive Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Edolphus Towns, (D-NY) dropped his bid to remain in the leadership of the committee as ranking member on Tuesday.

The release from Towns’ office was two sentences:

Statement on behalf of Chairman Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY) regarding the Ranking Member position on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee:

“After much thought, Chairman Towns today made the decision not to seek the Ranking Member position on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.”

Towns barely a month ago had been in a bare knuckles political brawl with Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who had questioned Towns´ ability to stand up to Rep. Daryl Issa (R-Calif.), the incoming chair of the committee.

Issa was widely considered to have run rings around Towns and there was early on a question if Towns was the right man for the job. However, support from the Congressional Black Caucus and the White House, and a personnel melt-down and allegations of racial problems within Kucinich’s office, meant that Towns was virtually assured of the job.

Kucinich had tried to leap frog three more senior members of the committee in order to get the leadership slot.

Kucinich announced the same day he was also dropping his bid and throwing his support behind Elijah Cummings, a power within the CBC and one of the more senior members he had previously tried to elbow out of the way:

“When I announced my candidacy for Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, I did so out of concern for a strong Democratic response Chairman Issa. Even before I announced my candidacy, I made it clear to members across the caucus that I thought that Congressman Cummings would be able to meet the challenge, and that if he was a candidate, I would support him.

“My bid has never been about my own personal advancement. It has been about protecting the oversight process from abuse. Mr. Cummings is well prepared for the challenge. Tomorrow, I will recommend to the Steering and Policy Committee and to the Democratic Caucus that they choose Mr. Cummings as Ranking Member.

“I have accomplished what I have set out to do, and that is to make sure that Democrats will have a very strong hand in the oversight process,” said Kucinich.

Since then Cummings has secured the leadership position and is set to challenge Issa, saying he would try to keep Issa from going on “fishing expeditions” to embarrass Democrats.

“We’ll go toe to toe on everything and hopefully be 10 steps ahead,” he told Roll Call.

According to Roll Call, Towns claims the reason he stepped aside was pressure from current Speaker of the House and future Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“I decided to withdraw my candidacy following a conversation with you when you made it clear that I did not have your support,” the New York Democrat said to Pelosi in a letter Wednesday.

Towns said in his letter he is reclaiming his seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee with “full seniority and all rights and privileges, including the grandfather clause which allows me to have a seat on both the Energy and Commerce Committee and the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.”

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