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House Democrats stymied on successor to Rangel

By Paul Kane and Perry Bacon Jr.
After hours of meetings Wednesday afternoon, House Democrats could not settle on a successor to Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

Hours after Rangel took a leave of absence amid an ethics scandal, rank-and-file Democrats on the committee staged a rebellion against the planned ascension of Rep. Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.) to be chairman on an interim basis.

Under House rules, the most senior person on a panel is supposed to be elevated to chairman once there is a vacancy. But Stark, 78, who was hospitalized a year ago with pneumonia, has not revealed what illness has continued to cause him to regularly miss votes. Since the start of the 111th Congress in January 2009, Stark has missed more than 250 votes, including a set of roll calls Tuesday night.

"No decision. There"s a lot to go through," Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.), a member of the committee and party leadership, told reporters after exiting the meeting. It was the third closed-door huddle of the day for Ways and Means Democrats, nearly four hours of meetings without any resolution. They plan to reconvene Thursday.

Normally the most powerful House committee, Ways and Means has languished in prestige during the 18 months Rangel has been under investigation, which has served as a distraction for Democrats.

The committee is supposed to serve as the point for most health-care legislation and all tax legislation, but Ways and Means increasingly found itself outflanked by other panels or overruled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's leadership team during recent legislative battles.

On Thursday Rangel served as a Democratic spokesman at President Obama's bipartisan summit on health-care legislation -- only to discover hours later that the ethics committee was releasing his admonishment.

Pelosi, who issued a statement praising Rangel's "decades of leadership," convened a series of meetings with Democrats on the committee trying to resolve the dispute. At one such meeting, Stark, who once called a group of conservative Democrats "brain-dead" and called one Republican "a whore for the insurance industry", told his colleagues he take the gavel only on an interim basis.

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which Rangel helped co-found in 1971, questioned the appropriateness of his admonishment, based on staff knowledge that corporations were paying for the trips. Some CBC members pushed for a civil rights legend, 70-year-old Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), to vault over a pair of other, more senior lawmakers to succeed Rangel.

By Paul Kane  |  March 3, 2010; 7:08 PM ET
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Hey, I go for the "waterboarding"

I think all of Congress would go along with putting old Nancy and Rangel under water.........may be they can't swim.

Well, great gosh, don't stop there...let's just clean house.

I think Eric Holder should take a dip also, and those 9 "terrorist" lawyers he has put in the "Justice Dept."....

and Timothy Geithner really needs a dip, and ...oh, my let's just be fair and put the administration under....all of them...

and then go to Chicago and get old Rev. Wright, Louis Farrakhan and Father Flanagan who had a "pow wow" in Chicago this weekend celebrating "let's hate American and the white race".

I say get them all under water....the sooner the better....yeah..


Posted by: paulann1 | March 6, 2010 10:28 PM | Report abuse

He missed 250 votes..........good gosh...why is he staying in the Senate?

Do you think he can "remember" what he is suppose to do in Congress? who voted to put him in office?? don't do it again, please................

The Democrats have no shame....they know that the people know all of the shameful things that ...Rangel .....has done, yet Pelosi let that thief keep his position.

No wonder "CONGRESS" has such a low approval rating....


Posted by: paulann1 | March 6, 2010 10:19 PM | Report abuse

The most effective to resolve this situation is with waterboarding: test Rangel and his chosen successor -and Pelosi. This way, we might have a chance at getting an honest person to replace both of them!

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Posted by: jiandaonile | March 4, 2010 8:11 AM | Report abuse

"After the Democrats choose a replacement for Rep. Rangel they should decide on the replacement for one more position, the Speaker of the House."

Nah, the Republicans can do that in January.

Posted by: ejh3 | March 4, 2010 7:54 AM | Report abuse

After the Democrats choose a replacement for Rep. Rangel they should decide on the replacement for one more position, the Speaker of the House.

Posted by: bobbo2 | March 4, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

That is correct there is no leave of absence for a chairmanship in the House. Nancy Pelosi is showing utter contempt for House rules of conduct.

Posted by: screwjob11 | March 3, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

First, there is no such thing as a leave of absence from a chair, you either are or are not the chair. Second, Pelosi, Rangel, Starck, Lewis, that great lisper Barney Frank, they're all alike. As crooked as the day is long. They would make great politburo members, but they make lousy U.S. Representatives.

Posted by: jhr1 | March 3, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

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