First Rangel, Now Stark: Levin Named New Chair of Ways & Means
by Nathan Empsall, Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 12:35:57 PM EST
The Chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee resigned his post today.
Oh, what's that? You say I must mean yesterday? Well, yes, the chairman did resign his post yesterday. But it happened again today. Two chairs in two days - and given who those two chairs were, that's not necessarily a bad thing. From The Hill:
Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) will be the acting chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced to her caucus on Thursday.
The startling announcement comes a day after Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) appeared ready to take the reins of the committee from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.).
Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War...
The shuffling of chairmen is sure to raise questions about how Pelosi handled the issue.
Yesterday I wrote that Stark was a lousy choice but that nonetheless, "anyone’s got to be better than Rangel, even if not by much." Still, better than Rangel or not, Stark does have major issues: he's attacked his "Jew" colleagues, claimed that a black Bush 1 administration was a "disgrace to his race" (Stark himself is white), and more. Levin will be a much better chair. His past does not include such scandals, and the National Journal ranks him as the 94th most progressive House member, compared to Stark's 140th.
It would have been better for us if Levin took over right away rather than going through Stark first, but either way, this does show that our caucus is dealing with its scandals and corruptions in a better way than the 2005-6 Republicans ever did, and that we're doing it well before the election or even Labor Day.
The bigger question is what this means for Nancy Pelosi's leadership. Her entire handling of the Rangel, and now general Ways & Means, scandal is her biggest political misstep since her extremely aggressive backing of Jack Murtha for House Majority Leader over Steny Hoyer. Political missteps won't hurt her much outside the Beltway, but they will strike a blow at her credibility within. Whether or not ramming the Senate health care bill through the House helps her image as someone who gets things done or takes her down a peg with bitter progressives remains to be seen. My own take is that she's Nancy Pelosi - she'll bounce back from anything, it's what she does - but this will make for an unpleasant few weeks.
I'll also be interested to see what effect having a Michigan Congressman in charge of the House's finance panel will have on future auto industry discussions. (And yes, he is related to Carl; they're brothers.)