Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has, time and again, proven to be one of the most courageous members of the House. He has stood up to Democratic and Republican presidents when he thought they were wrong, especially on issues of war and peace. And he has brought determination, a notable work ethic and a flare for using the bully pulpit to the task of challenging the most powerful interests in Washington and on Wall Street.
Now he wants to make sure the House remains focused on real issues in the coming Congress, as opposed to partisan witchhunts and ideological positioning. As such, he is asking his fellow Democrats to make him the ranking member on the powerful Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Kucinich, who currently chairs the Domestic Policy Subcommittee on the oversight panel, would like to be the top Democrat on the committee in the new Republican-controlled Congress.
While other members have seniority, Kucinich is arguing that he is best prepared to take the lead in preventing the new Republican chair of the committee, California Congressman Darrell Issa, from turning its sessions into platforms for smearing President Obama and his administration. Issa has proposed to hold "hundreds of hearings" to go after the administration and its policies. Kucinich, who has often clashed with the White House, is not against accountability. But he is against lies and innuendo, excessive partisanship and the new McCarthyism.
Senior Democrats on the oversight committee, including the current ranking member, New York Congressman Ed Towns, share Kucinich’s views and values. Towns would like to remain in the ranking position, and his office says: "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."
Despite the tough talk, Issa has indicated that he would prefer working with Towns, as the two did with relative smoothness during the last Congress.
The Congressional Black Caucus has, as well, signaled its support for Towns. So there is certainly no guarantee that Kucinich, a former presidential candidate who has not always been close to the Democratic leadership, is going to move up to the ranking member slot.
But Kucinich is making a case to fellow Democrats that they need him in this position at this moment.
His letter to caucus members puts the argument this way:
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.