Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) sent his colleagues a letter on Wednesday confirming that he is seeking the post of ranking member of the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform.
Also in the running for the ranking member position is current House Oversight Committee Chairman Ed Towns (D-NY). Towns has faced criticism from fellow Democrats who don’t think he would be a strong enough counterweight to Issa. The White House, however, has said they expect their relationship with Towns to continue. The Congressional Black Caucus would likely resist efforts to oust Towns, who is a member of the caucus.
Kucinich criticized Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the chairman-in-waiting of the Oversight Committee, for making what he called unsubstantiated claims about the Obama administration.
“Mr. Issa, through his eagerness to make unsubstantiated charges and to draw conclusions in advance of evidence, reveals a lack of restraint and basic fairness,” Kucinich wrote. ”This conduct in the Chairman of the Committee will degrade Congress’ oversight credibility and undermine the institution of the House through a lack of restraint in the use of subpoena power.”
“We cannot simply stand by idly and hope that such a reckless approach to the use of the power of the Chair will not happen, especially since it is not only being promised, but demonstrated by the person who will hold the gavel,” Kucinich wrote.
Kucinich said he would have “zero tolerance for smears and innuendo” but said he would work with Issa “when, and only when, he proceeds in an even-handed manner which demonstrates basic fairness and respect for due process.”
In recent weeks, Issa made the rounds to various media outlets, saying that he had no plans to use his new power to investigate the issues over which he’s most publicly attacked the Administration. Issa has disputed charges that he’ll engage in an ideologically-motivated subpoena spree, adding that he is more interested in looking at bipartisan issues, from the Bush Administration’s involvement in the mortgage crisis to the mismanagement of the Minerals Management Service, which has taken a great deal of the regulatory blame for the BP oil spill. He has also stated that he wants to empower the Inspector Generals in the federal agencies throughout the government.
Late update: “Based on the overwhelming support Rep. Towns is receiving from fellow Democrats, he is confident that he will be Ranking Member,” Towns spokeswoman Jenny Thalheimer Rosenberg said in a statement to TPM. Rosenberg continued:
Rep. Towns firmly believes that his record of accomplishments as chairman - including a wide-ranging investigation into the federal bailout that resulted in recovering more than $400 million for taxpayers, comprehensive Recovery Act oversight that created three million jobs and improper payments legislation that President Obama signed into law - make him the best candidate for this important position. Just as he has done as Chairman, he will lead Committee Democrats in pursuing their common goals and agenda.
“Chairman Towns has clearly stated that any attempt to use this committee as a political weapon are intolerable and he will lead a strong and unified resistance against any such effort,” Rosenberg said.
Read Kucinich’s letter to his colleagues below.
Perhaps the most crucial vote you will cast in the reorganization of the 112th Congress involves the Ranking Member position of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. This is because the presumptive Chair of the full Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa of California, has already made wild and unsubstantiated charges which threaten to turn the principal oversight committee of the House into a witch hunt.
In just the past week, he has indicated a telling enthusiasm for a broad probe into the $700 billion American Reinvestment and Recovery Act program. He has equated it with “walking around money.” As you know, that is political slang for money off the books and under the table. He made this unsubstantiated claim in the context of promising hundreds of investigative hearings into the present Administration, calling President Obama “one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.” I immediately sent Mr. Issa a letter (attached) calling for him to produce the evidence for such charges or to retract his statement.
Mr. Issa, through his eagerness to make unsubstantiated charges and to draw conclusions in advance of evidence, reveals a lack of restraint and basic fairness. This conduct in the Chairman of the Committee will degrade Congress’ oversight credibility and undermine the institution of the House through a lack of restraint in the use of subpoena power.
We cannot simply stand by idly and hope that such a reckless approach to the use of the power of the Chair will not happen, especially since it is not only being promised, but demonstrated by the person who will hold the gavel.
It is a matter of the highest importance that any intemperate use of the power of the Chair be challenged at every turn.
Accordingly, I have decided to step forward as a candidate for Ranking Member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In that capacity, here is my pledge to you and our fellow members of the House:
1. Zero tolerance for smears and innuendo. Every single statement by Chairman Issa which is lacking in respect for the process of oversight, every unsubstantiated allegation or any publically pronounced assumption which lacks basic fairness will be promptly challenged.
2. I will encourage a team approach on the Committee which will tap the talents of all members to actively participate in responding to any abuse of process.
3. All members will receive weekly updates of oversight activities to be able to provide input.
4. Cooperation with Chairman Issa when, and only when, he proceeds in an even-handed manner which demonstrates basic fairness and respect for due process.
In the past two Congresses, the Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which I chaired, held over sixty hearings and heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses. We received testimony from Democratic and Republican administrations alike, proceeding in a deliberate and methodical manner, through thorough questioning of witnesses.
As Chairman, I worked closely with the Obama Administration. As a result of my advocacy and the multiple hearings that my Subcommittee held on foreclosure prevention, the Treasury Department created a $15 billion nationwide principle reduction program for “underwater” borrowers and now will allow flexibility in the use of federal foreclosure prevention funds by state housing agencies so that they can hire foreclosure prevention counselors.
Aggressive and thorough oversight is never to be feared. It is a goal. Now, with the change in the leadership of the Committee, we must be ready to preserve that goal tirelessly, courageously and unstintingly. That is the only way we can defend the integrity of congressional oversight from becoming an abusive power.
I ask for your consideration and your vote for Ranking Member of the full Committee.
Dennis J. Kucinich
Chair, Domestic Policy Subcommittee
Committee on Oversight and Government Reform