Speaker Pelosi Should Strip Rep. Katie Hill of Committee Vice Chair Amid Ethics Probe

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U.S. Congresswoman Katie Hill speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California. June 1, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

As the funeral of civil-rights icon and son of sharecroppers Rep. Elijah Cummings takes place today, and that distinguished gentleman is honored after a long and storied career serving in the U.S. Congress, there is big trouble on the the House Committee on Oversight and Reform he chaired.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has named Rep. Carolyn Maloney as the acting chair of the Oversight Committee, but who will become the permanent chairman in place of Cummings is far from certain.

The chairmanship should perhaps have fallen to a new and newly rising star in the Democratic Party, Oversight Committee Vice Chair Rep. Katie Hill of California. Hill was elected on the 2018 “Blue Wave” that swept an unprecedented number of female lawmakers into office.

But whether freshman Rep. Katie Hill, is up to the challenge of filling the committee chairmanship shoes of the late Rep. Elijah Cummings is another matter entirely.

And it is a matter now under official investigation by the House Ethics Committee.

That Rep. Elijah Cummings served his district long and faithfully goes without saying, his unwavering commitment to his constituents, his district and his country are best illustrated by his stellar congressional record.

But while Cummings was hailed today by fellow Democrats as the “North Star” of the Democratic Party and eulogized by both Democrat and Republican Party leadership, an announcement came Wednesday that the House Ethics Committee would begin investigations into his fellow committee member and vice chair Rep. Katie Hill’s alleged sexual relationships with a campaign staffer and one of the members of her congressional staff.

The House adopted new ethics rules this year specifically prohibiting members of Congress from engaging in romantic relationships with their staffers. These new rules were officially adopted to help Congress better navigate the post-#MeToo era.

“The Committee is aware of public allegations that Representative Katie Hill may have engaged in a sexual relationship with an individual on her congressional staff, in violation of House Rule XXIII, clause 18 (a).”

“The Committee notes that the mere fact that it is investigating these allegations, and publicly disclosing its review, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgement on behalf of the Committee.” — House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted Deutch (D-Fl.) and Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX), ranking committee Republican, in a statement. October 23, 2019

Hill is the first congressional lawmaker to face a House ethics inquiry over a sexual relationship with a subordinate under the new House rules. Hill has admitted to having an inappropriate relationship with a young female campaign staffer but has denied being romantically involved with a congressional staffer.

This embarrassing Hill imbroglio must be especially disappointing to Democratic House leadership, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Pelosi has been integral in helping Hill move into leadership roles and plum committee assignments, taking the young Congresswoman under her wing.

Other prominent Democrats have also been lavish in their support of Rep. Katie Hill, comparing her favorably to Speaker Pelosi herself.

“Taking initiative is rewarded by Nancy Pelosi. Katie’s just a doer. She doesn’t see obstacles where a lot of us might. That’s part of her effectiveness. And that sounds a lot like Nancy Pelosi.” — Rep. Eric Swalwell (D)

Rep. Katie Hill was even hand-selected by Pelosi to join her at NATO headquarters at February’s Munich Security Conference.

For this reason, it is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who should demand Hill’s resignation immediately, as Speaker Paul Ryan previously demanded of a Republican Congressmen accused of a similar charge.

House Republicans cleaned house; House Democrats must do the same. “Whataboutisms” that point the finger at Donald Trump are a non-starter, not relevant to the case against Katie Hill. Democrats defending themselves using the antics of Donald Trump will not enjoy facing liberal voters.

The Hill case continues to deepen by the day, as more alleged text messages, photos, and campaign financial records come into the public purview. If Hill is unwilling to resign, Democratic House leadership should move to strip her of committee assignments.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, and his legacy of faithful service chairing the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, deserves an heir apparent with better judgement and a stronger commitment to equality in the workplace.

His standard should not be allowed to be tarnished by the selfishness and self-serving actions of a freshman Democrat. The California voters in Hill’s district, and the U.S. Congress, deserves someone with more solidarity with people who have faced sexual harassment in the workplace, and a greater degree of respect for Democratic principles.

Rep. Katie Hill has squandered the contributions of her donors, the faith and help of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the hard work of her supporters. Hill’s conduct flies in the face of her outspoken advocacy for victims during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings.

At a time when Democrats are in the fight of their political lives against Donald Trump, Hill’s actions are even more disgraceful.

There is plenty of work to be done in Washington; with a stalwart like Rep. Elijah Cummings gone and Rep. Hill’s personal life making it all but impossible for her to effectively govern, what is to become of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform?

More importantly, what is to become of the important work that committee is currently doing in Congress?

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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