Lawmakers raise health concerns as they quietly seek to replace a House chairman

Some House Democrats say Scott has been unable to preserve management of routine committee hearings to hold Republicans from operating roughshod over Democrats on key priorities such as climate-related agriculture applications and their now-stalled $1.7 trillion social spending invoice.

A invoice markup in September veered to this point out of order that a number of House Democrats took the uncommon step of elevating their worries with House management workplaces in an try to replace Scott as chair earlier than he opens talks for the following farm invoice within the coming weeks, in accordance to seven House members acquainted with the state of affairs.

In interviews or through a spokesperson, the highest three House Democrats — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — every mentioned the concerns weren’t raised to them and they expressed confidence in Scott, giving no floor to fears about Scott’s capabilities or the discuss of changing him.


Scott in a telephone interview this week dismissed questions on his health as the actions of “a bunch of wannabe chairmen” who’re profiting from his bodily health challenges so as to stage a mutiny.

“You’ve gotten individuals there that need to be chairman and they see you with a cane to enable you together with your mobility,” mentioned Scott, including that he not too long ago had leg surgical procedure. “Folks should not maintain the truth that you are having a little issue together with your leg to deny you a chance.”

Scott mentioned he has no plans to retire from Congress.

However greater than a dozen lawmakers and aides interviewed by POLITICO detailed rising frustrations about a few of his choices whereas main the committee of 27 Democrats and 24 Republicans. In addition they have pointed to cases of his lack of ability to end his ideas or bear in mind earlier conversations.

“I’ve the utmost respect for Chairman Scott,” mentioned a Democrat on the committee. “However he could possibly be doing a higher job.” The individual added: “I don’t essentially know if it’s his health or what, however one thing is flawed.”

This lawmaker described talking with Scott final November about particulars of a invoice in a dialog the place Scott appeared attentive and engaged. A number of days later, the lawmaker was shocked by how a lot Scott struggled to keep it up a dialog about the identical invoice. He appeared to lose focus, was unable to discover the phrases to full his ideas at occasions and didn’t appear to bear in mind ever discussing the laws earlier than, this lawmaker mentioned. Scott’s workplace didn’t reply to a request for remark in regards to the incident.

One House Democrat not too long ago tried to intervene with Scott immediately, in accordance to 5 of the House Democrats interviewed for this story. They mentioned this member, whom fellow lawmakers wouldn’t title, spoke with Scott about particular questions on his health to attempt to persuade him to cede the gavel forward of the farm invoice talks.

Scott was not receptive to the message, in accordance to one of many 5 Democrats, who was advised in regards to the assembly by the lawmaker who met with Scott. Scott, in a telephone interview, denied realizing something about such a assembly. Scott’s workplace says it didn’t occur.

A number of Democrats, together with members of the Black and Hispanic Caucuses, mentioned subcommittee chairs would possible tackle extra of the work negotiating items of the farm invoice with Scott in cost.

”It is not likely his bodily health. He struggles getting round,” mentioned one other Democrat on the agriculture panel. “However there are actual questions on whether or not he is with it.”

In a press availability final July, Scott struggled to convey fundamental details about a invoice simply superior by the committee. He claimed, unprompted, that the invoice had 42 co-sponsors, when in actuality it didn’t have any. He made a number of different errors earlier than an aide stepped in and ended the occasion. Scott hasn’t answered reporters’ questions in a related, scheduled media availability since. Aides cite his busy schedule as one purpose.

Scott hasn’t disclosed any severe health points. His workplace says Congress’ attending doctor has deemed him as wholesome.


“I’m as sturdy and vibrant as a roaring lion,” he mentioned within the telephone interview. “These are people who need this place.”

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) is among the members who has privately raised concerns about Scott with colleagues, in accordance to two individuals acquainted with the conversations. Costa ran in opposition to Scott for the Agriculture Committee’s high spot and can be amongst these subsequent in line to take over.

In a assertion to POLITICO, Costa didn’t dispute that he had raised questions in regards to the chair with different members, however mentioned he “respect[s] the arduous work that Chairman Scott is doing within the committee.”

“It’s necessary that Democratic members work along with the chairman as we now have historically on points impacting America’s heartland,” Costa added. “He has my help.”

Worries about Scott’s potential to lead the committee within the grueling months forward are such an open secret that folks in different elements of the federal authorities — together with two Division of Agriculture officers and three senior Senate aides — say they have mentioned related concerns of their workplaces.

“It’s alarming,” mentioned one USDA staffer who has recognized Scott for greater than a decade.

In a assertion, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned he has “full religion and confidence” in Scott’s potential to lead the committee.

“Since I returned to workplace, Scott has been a sturdy accomplice in transferring ahead our aggressive agenda to help our farmers, ranchers and producers, battle meals and vitamin insecurity, fight local weather change and ship outcomes for the American individuals on a vary of different necessary points,” Vilsack mentioned. “I look ahead to persevering with to work with him effectively into the longer term.”

As chair of the House Agriculture Committee, Scott is ready to lead this 12 months’s negotiations over tons of of billions of {dollars} in farm support, vitamin help and associated applications. The farm invoice, which subsequent expires in 2023, has sweeping ramifications for each facet of American agriculture and rural life. The upcoming reauthorization course of is especially vital for Democrats, who hope to form the early talks earlier than the House probably flips to the GOP in November.

If Republicans take management of the committee, Scott would nonetheless have a outstanding function as rating member. The fear is that Republicans and the farm business may push Democrats to the sidelines in the course of the talks.

“I feel [House leaders] really feel that there wants to be a change based mostly on his capability, that there might be a change earlier than the farm invoice. It is too huge,” mentioned one Democrat on the committee.

However House leaders are displaying no indicators that they plan to intervene forward of the farm invoice talks.

“The Speaker has confidence in Chairman Scott’s management,” Drew Hammill, Pelosi’s deputy chief of workers, mentioned in a assertion. “No such concerns have been raised by Members with our workplace.”

Hoyer and Clyburn, the No. 2 and No. 3 House Democrats, each mentioned briefly interviews that they didn’t know in regards to the state of affairs and weren’t conscious of any efforts to replace Scott as chair.

“I have never heard something of that nature,” Hoyer mentioned. “He has a mobility downside, however he does not have a pondering downside. That is for positive. I’ve talked to him a lot.”

“I’ve full religion and confidence in David Scott,” mentioned Clyburn in a follow-up telephone name.

Some House Democrats pushed again in opposition to questions over Scott’s management, particularly on his heavy reliance on aides in committee hearings and criticisms of his lack of management over a number of contentious committee conferences.

“Even chairing a subcommittee, you usually need assistance from skilled workers and the parliamentarian,” Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) mentioned. “However I’ve discovered him to be excellent at operating the committee hearings.”

Making any transfer in opposition to Scott, a well-liked Congressional Black Caucus member, would trigger important issues for House leaders who themselves are all octogenarians. Scott, a Blue Canine Democrat from Georgia, boasts sterling bipartisan credentials.

Within the interview, Scott mentioned he was “very proud” to be the committee’s first Black chair. He touted the committee’s accomplishments to date underneath his management, together with steps to increase funding for local weather applications, rural broadband, and 1890 African American land-grant faculties and universities.

“I used to be the one which offered that management,” Scott mentioned.

Requested if House leaders have raised these issues immediately to him or his workers, Scott replied, “I have never heard something besides everyone saying, ‘David, you are doing a nice job.’”

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, mentioned her group “has full confidence within the chairman and look[s] ahead to his continued management.”

Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.), vice chair of the Agriculture Committee and its most senior Black member after Scott, mentioned “I don’t know what you’re speaking about” when requested about inner worries about his readiness.

“He has my fullest help and confidence and I look ahead to my continued work with him on the committee,” mentioned Rep. Sanford Bishop, a fellow Georgia Democrat.

A former staffer on the House Agriculture Committee acknowledged a few of the concerns about Scott, however added they weren’t unusual for a senior lawmaker.

“We’ve seen this occur with different members, individuals don’t essentially speak about it,” the previous staffer mentioned.

The individual questioned why lawmakers have been difficult Scott’s potential to lead the committee when a number of former committee chairs struggled with related concerns — noting that they have been white and didn’t face the identical scrutiny.

Scott final fall introduced plans to run for reelection and reiterated this week that he’s not retiring. However some Democrats interviewed speculated that he might nonetheless change course and depart Congress, following greater than two dozen different caucus members who’ve opted to depart the House forward of a possible GOP takeover this fall.

Ximena Bustillo and Helena Bottemiller Evich contributed to this report.

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