Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is set to step into a larger role on the House Oversight Committee this Congress, perhaps even its No. 2 Democratic spot.
An elevation to the vice ranking member position, while it's not yet final, would give the well-known third-term progressive Democrat a high-profile perch to tangle with Republicans on a laundry list of controversial investigations they're planning — on topics ranging from Hunter Biden’s business dealings to the southern border to GOP efforts to probe the "origins" of the coronavirus.
“There’s been conversations, but nothing's been finalized,” Ocasio-Cortez said in a brief interview Friday when asked about her interest in the party's No. 2 position on the panel, which is sparking open discussion among her fellow Democratic lawmakers.
Should Ocasio-Cortez become vice ranking member, she's also likely to take on more responsibility in helming Democrats’ messaging and strategy on a panel that's stocked with some of the House GOP's most rhetorically rowdy conservatives, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). That's in part due to the cancer treatment that Oversight's current ranking member, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) is currently undergoing.
“I have the greatest admiration for her skill, and I'm sure we're going to be able to deploy her to maximum effect on the committee, along with all these other amazing new members,” Raskin said in an interview about her position on the committee, declining to directly address whether Ocasio-Cortez would become his No. 2.
A Democratic aide noted that Ocasio-Cortez would be able to sit in for Raskin on the committee if he’s absent during hearings, a role typically played by the No. 2 member on any panel but one that other panel members are also able to assume.
Ocasio-Cortez and Raskin worked closely together during the last Congress, particularly on the Oversight subpanel he then chaired overseeing civil rights issues. The younger New Yorker had served as the subpanel's vice chair, and the duo's close relationship had fueled speculation among some Democrats that Ocasio-Cortez would follow Raskin as he rose on the committee.
Committee Democrats are expected to meet on Monday to organize for the next two years, two party aides told POLITICO. Democrats will likely use the meeting to finalize internal leadership positions like the one Ocasio-Cortez is under consideration for. The “vice ranking member” position was created by Democrats back in 2017, when they were last in the minority after failing to flip the House in 2016, in order to elevate more junior members.
Ocasio-Cortez’s potential ascension comes as the Oversight Committee’s work is preparing to kick into high gear after Republicans have spent months conducting behind-the-scenes planning.
The full committee will hold an organizational meeting on Tuesday and its first full committee hearing on Wednesday, focused on coronavirus relief funding.
Oversight panel chair Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) is also setting the stage for two high-profile hearings early next month: He’s invited Border Patrol officials to testify during the week of Feb. 6 and will hold a hearing on Feb. 8 related to Twitter’s handling of a 2020 New York Post story on Hunter Biden. Comer has invited three former Twitter officials to appear at the latter hearing, with a GOP committee aide saying those witnesses are expected to testify.
“I think I'm going to have a lot of fun on this committee,” Ocasio-Cortez told reporters generally earlier Friday after her formal naming to the panel. “Of course, [Republicans are] going to be calling hearings on horrible things, but our job is to protect the people and protect the vulnerable communities that they seek to attack … it gives us an opportunity and a platform to de-legitimize a lot of the disinformation that they've been advancing.”