Speaker Pelosi fumbles in dealing with the ouster of Chairman Rangel

Speaker Pelosi fumbles in dealing with the ouster of Chairman Rangel

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made some rare missteps in ousting Rep. Charles Rangel as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) initially defended Rangel (D-N.Y.) after the ethics committee admonished him last week, noting he did not break House rules willfully.


Politically vulnerable members were not convinced, calling for Rangel to step aside as chairman and returning money the New York Democrat donated to their campaigns. Pelosi then made her move.
During an hourlong meeting Tuesday night, Pelosi and Rangel agreed that he needed to relinquish his gavel. But even though Pelosi has known since 2008 that the embattled Rangel may need to be replaced, the Speaker fumbled in picking his successor.
After defending Rangel late last week and on two Sunday talk shows, Pelosi reversed course after House Democrats let her know that Rangel had become a major political liability. More than two months after saying she was in “campaign mode,” Pelosi replaced the Rangel problem with another dilemma.
Instead of selecting the mild-mannered Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), who is widely respected among House Democrats, Pelosi initially tapped Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.).
It was a rare mistake for Pelosi, who understands the needs of her caucus inside and out.

At her weekly press conference on Thursday, Pelosi said, "The problems of the last few days, they're behind us...we have a new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee."

Early Wednesday, House Democratic leaders spread word that Stark would be taking over for Rangel on a temporary basis. Democrats pointed to a technicality in House rules, saying Stark deserved the temporary post because he had the most seniority behind Rangel.
Many Democratic members, already nervous about their political futures with the midterms eight months way, objected to Stark, who is one of Congress’s most controversial members.
Stark last year called Blue Dog Democrats “brain-dead.”
He would have been the sixth House committee chairman representing Pelosi’s home state of California. And with a looming final vote on healthcare reform, all of the three chairmen with jurisdiction on healthcare would have hailed from the Golden State.

Having too many power brokers from one state has long triggered angst in the House, regardless of which party controls the lower chamber.
Stark has been a fierce critic of former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and the Iraq war. Perhaps more importantly, Stark has made a slew of controversial comments throughout his nearly two decades in the House. In 2007, he apologized on the House floor for saying Bush sent troops to Iraq to get their “heads blown off for his amusement.”
Fewer than 24 hours after Stark was tapped, Pelosi shifted again and chose Levin.
A Pelosi spokesman did not immediately comment for this article.

Jordan Fabian contributed to this article, which was updated at 11:45 p.m.