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Stephen Lynch to seek House Oversight chairmanship

Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston says he’s interested in chairing the House’s powerful Oversight and Reform Committee.
Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston says he’s interested in chairing the House’s powerful Oversight and Reform Committee.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

WASHINGTON — Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston said Monday he plans to run to become chairman of the House’s powerful Oversight and Reform Committee.

The prestigious post is vacant after the death of Representative Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, who has led the committee since Democrats gained the House majority in January. His funeral was Friday in Baltimore.

The oversight committee has a major role in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump and its chair is one of the most influential members of Congress. The committee is the main investigative panel in the House, with broad authority to probe just about any matter.

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“As an attorney, I think I’m well-suited and well-qualified to lead this committee,” said Lynch, 64, a former ironworker and lawyer, who has served 18 years in the House representing a district that includes South Boston, Qunicy, Brockton, and Dedham. He is the chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on national security.

If he gains the committee’s gavel, that would boost the clout to the nine-member Massachusetts House delegation. Richard Neal of Springfield chairs the Ways and Means Committee, Jim McGovern of Worcester is chairman of the Rules Committee, and Katherine Clark of Melrose is vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, a leadership position that puts her close to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Lynch potentially has an uphill climb to the oversight committee position, although there is only one other publicly declared candidate, Representative Jackie Speier of California.

Carolyn B. Maloney of New York has the most tenure on the committee and is the acting chair, although has not indicated if she will run for the position. She is followed by Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, William Lacy Clay of Missouri, then Lynch.

Committee chairmanships normally go to the lawmaker in the majority who has served on the panel the longest. But any member can run to be chair. The selection involves the recommendation of the party’s steering committee, which is made up of leadership appointees, and a vote by all the party’s House members. The party leader, in this case Pelosi, has significant influence on the decision.

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Lynch said he would continue the committee’s litigation efforts involving investigations of Trump..

“Given the challenges it’s important I think that we are prepared,” he said. “This is sort of a complicated process between ourselves, the executive branch and the courts.”

Lynch is the son of an ironworker and was raised in the Old Colony housing development as the fourth of six children. He served on Beacon Hill in both chambers of the state Legislature before he was elected to Congress in 2001 to succeed Joe Moakley.

Lynch also serves on the Financial Services and Transportation and Infrastructure committees.

Cummings drew Trump’s ire as he pursued several investigations of the president. Those included probes into conflicts of interest involving Trump’s Washington hotel, security clearances for the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, and Trump’s involvement in hush-money payments to women who had said they had affairs with him.

The oversight committee has been one of six House panels investigating Trump for impeachable offenses.

Lynch was initially reluctant to call for a formal impeachment inquiry. But speaking a month ago to WBUR, Lynch said he felt that Trump’s call asking Ukraine’s president for an investigation into Joe Biden’s son was clear evidence that Trump had likely broken the law and that impeachment proceedings were warranted.

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“This is an attack on the Constitution actively by the president, this is an attempt to interfere in our election using a foreign power to do that, and this is a clear violation of the rule of law,” he said.

Lynch said he wanted to gather more information before making a decision but called it “a fairly straightforward case.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the date of Elijah Cummings’s death. He died Oct. 17.


Globe correspondent Ryan Wangman contributed to this report. Laura Krantz can be reached at laura.krantz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @laurakrantz.