Alex Bolton, senior staff writer with The Hill newspaper.
A day after Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank announced he will not seek reelection, Democrats are facing questions about who will succeed him as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. Congresswoman Maxine Waters -- of California -- is next in line according to seniority, but she has been the focus of an ethics committee investigation related to banking. Alex Bolton - senior staff writer for The Hill newspaper.
Remind us what the ethics committee has been looking into
The allegation is that Waters improperly used her position on the Financial Services Committee to help a bank with financial ties to her husband, get a meeting with Treasury officials. This bank eventually got their meeting, and secured $12 million in federal bailout funds. So the question is: did she improperly use her influence to benefit her husband and her own financial standing?
And what is the status of the investigation?
The investigation has bogged down, because there was some controversy about how the Ethics Committee was handling the investigation. It led to the suspension of two attorneys working on the case and the commmittee's chief council resigned. That has stalled the process.
The problem for Democrats is that Maxine is next in line. She is expected to have the backing of the powerful Congressional Black Caucus. But because there's this ethics scandal hanging over her head, so there is some reluctance to give her the senior ranking Democrat's position.
"However, because the ethics committee investigation has stalled due to internal turmoil, it's hard to deny her the prestigious spot before the ethics committee has come to any conclusion," says Bolton.
Which other lawmakers would the Democrats consider?
Next in line, after Waters, is Carolyn Maloney, from the upper east side of Manhattan. That is home to members of Wall Street, the banking industry, and the securities industry, so she has a hometown interest in getting the position. Considering that she stepped aside in the New York Senate race, allowing Kirsten Gillibrand to take the Senate Democratic nomination uncontested, the party may owe Maloney something.
Frank weighed in himself on Tuesday, saying that seniority shouldn't be the only factor in determining who will succeed him as the ranking Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee. He said that it is a 'very rebuttal presumption' as to whether seniority should determine his successor.
And what's at stake here -- how powerful a position are we talking about?
In the minority, it's not very powerful. In the House, the majority party controls everything. However, if the Democrats were to recapture the House, it would be a very powerful position.
"You would have oversight authority over the banking industry, over the securities and exchange commission, over the regulatory apparatus that keeps an eye on the banking industry. It's a very powerful position," says Bolton.