First Rangel, Now Stark: Levin Named New Chair of Ways & Means

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.)

Tags: Nancy Pelosi, Charlie Rangel, Pete Stark, Sandy Levin, corruption, ways & means (all tags)



Either which way?

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.

Look, you tried this line yesterday and it was about equally mind-boggling if not more so today - Rangel's been twisting in the wind for a good two years (the apartments and Punta Cana and the tax issues etc etc), and letting seniority rule when Stark was nobody's idea of a next good option also smacks not of "good" policy but of learning basically nothing about letting seniority dictate leadership alone. Our best people in the Democratic Party - even in the House - are not necessarily those who've been there longest. And this goes back to an even more fundamental point, one no one really likes brought up - that Nancy Pelosi has surrounded herself, mainly, with machine pols from around the country (Dingell/Conyers, Rangel, Murtha, and on and on... virtually the whose who of the 20 longest serving  House members)whose main goal... is, well, perpetuating the machine. That's fine from a power and money standpoint... but it goes a long way to the kind of policy and "liberal idea" problems the Party is having overall. Sandy Levin is 30th in overall House seniority, and the brother of Carl Levin. Does that seem like a great, or brave improvement? I'd say no, and I think we shouldn't dress up what's happened in Ways and Means as more than what it it is - late, badly dressed as any kind of "serious" addressing of corruption or insiderism within the leadership, and unlikely to improve the overall sense of "ethics" commitments that barely look good on paper and far less so in practice. We can do better, and God knows someone should try and push Pelosi and the House leadership to actually do it. And, by the way, also shake up what is fast looking like a tired, "old hand" appraoch to leading generally.

by nycweboy1 2010-03-04 04:15PM | 0 recs
RE: Either which way?

You're focused on the wrong thing. Whether or not this is an improvement has nothing to do with seniority and everything to do with the corruption and scandal of Rangel and, to a lesser degree, Stark. I don't know anything tained about Levin, I don't care how senior he is. Would you prefer we went with someone like Massa? He's new, he's not senior, hooray, what else could possibly matter!

I'm absolutely with you, we should look beyond seniority. But we should also be happy when the party deals with corruption, no matter how late they are to doing so. As happy as we would have been two years? No, but still happy. Rangel's out. That's not a bad thing.

"Look, you tried this line yesterday and it was about equally mind-boggling if not more so today."

No, I don't think I will "look." We kicked out Rangel after two years and with no indictments or legal action. The Republicans took far longer with DeLay and in the cases of DeLay, Cunningham, Ney, and others, needed legal action to do it, as did we with Jefferson. Is our situation now good? No. Is it the exact same thing as has happened before? Hell no. Is it acceptable? Of course not. But am I encouraged whenever a ship starts moving in the right direction, even if it isn't going as fast as I'd like? Absolutely. Should I cut out the Rumsfeldian self-press conference now? No, I should have cut it out a long time ago.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-03-04 07:59PM | 0 recs
RE: Either which way?

Come on Nathan... the ship isn't moving "in the right direction" - it's not moving. Charlie Rangel's been in office for some 30+ years; the problems with him aren't new. No one, really did anything about him. For years. This isn't progress. It's just that, finally, some long overdue chickens came home to roost. And even then... he's still in office, this "step down" is "temporary" and the matter is by no means resolved. Pelosi and the leadership are tiptoeing around here trying not to make too many waves or rile things up. That's not a firm, forthright approach to ethics... and I think you know it. I don't know if Levin's good or bad - my inherent feeling, on Ways and Means is... well, don't expect much... But who knows? - but the problem I have is calling his installation some sure sign of progress and bold action. That surely explains the 24 hours of Pete Stark, for one thing. No, it's mostly the usual dance of the usual suspects, meant mainly to keep things constant, and keep in place a familiar system that has long outlived its usefulness (and to think it hasn't, consider what we just found out with Martha Coakley). Charlie's district is entirely safe and it's next to impossible to envision a scenario, even now, where he could be taken out without basically agreeing to retire. And sure he may (hey, let's give it to Paterson... there's an idea!), but the general drift of Rangel - who is not so different from anyone else, including, say, William Jefferson - is to hang on, tooth and nail, and not get the message, even when drawn in big red capital letters. We can do better. We surely should insist on doing better... and we shouldn't praise the House leadership, or ourselves, until someone actually does better.  At the very least. So no, not convinced. Not by a long shot.

by nycweboy1 2010-03-04 10:48PM | 0 recs
Out with the old

PS, I wrote the long version of both these comments at my blog a day ago:

by nycweboy1 2010-03-04 10:57PM | 0 recs


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