Politics & Government

Black Caucus to House Dems: Stick to seniority system on committees

Rep. Frank Pallone J., D-N.J., 2010
Rep. Frank Pallone J., D-N.J., 2010 courtesy of the Representative’s website

The Congressional Black Caucus Monday urged Democrats in the House of Representatives to adhere to a seniority process in selecting committee chair or ranking member positions in the party’s upcoming leadership elections.

In declaring support for seniority, black caucus chair Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, inserted the group into a thorny battle over the ranking Democrat slot on the House Energy and Commerce Committee in which Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., a friend of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, is trying to leapfrog more senior Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr., D-N.J., for the position.

Based on seniority, Pallone is next in line to be ranking member spot because the committee’s current top Democrat, Rep. Henry Waxman, is retiring from Congress. So is Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, the committee’s Number Two Democrat.

Pelosi, D-Calif., has written three letters to House Democrats supportive of Eshoo, who’s fifth in seniority on the committee. Pallone is the committee’s third most-senior Democrat.

Fudge, in a ‘Dear Colleague’ message said the black caucus backs the seniority system for chair and ranking member spots because ‘the seniority system has worked well and should be honored. This has been the historic position of the CBC and we fully support its continuation.’

‘There have been very limited instances when seniority has not been adhered to in past selections of committee leadership,’ Fudge wrote. ‘Those rare instances must be considered individually and in light of all facts and circumstances then present. Nonetheless, those who through years of service have gained significant expertise and knowledge should be given priority to lead our committees and sub-committees.’

Fudge noted that the black caucus has several members who are the most senior Democrats on their committees: Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., Judiciary committee; Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., Financial Services Committee; Rep. Corrine Brown, Veterans Affairs Committee; Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., Oversight and Government Reform Committee; Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Texas, Science, Space and Technology Committee; Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., Education and Workforce Committee; and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Homeland Security Committee.