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Chaos In The Democratic Caucus: Stark Out, Levin In

Yesterday it was announced and widely reported that California Democratic firebrand Courtney "Pete" Stark would take over Representative Charles Rangel's chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. Stark has a well deserved reputation that might appeal to his boss and fellow Californian, Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

The Republican National Committee blasted out an e-mail Thursday morning containing a slew of Stark's controversial commentary from the past two decades, calling him a "walking YouTube clip."

In one notable quote, Stark, who is white, called former Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan, who is a black, a "disgrace to his race" back in 1990. He later said Sullivan was being "programmed" by the "overseers on the Sununu plantation." He was referring to then-White House Chief of Staff John Sununu.

In a famous 2007 incident on the House floor, Stark also accused President Bush of sending troops to Iraq"to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement."

He also once called former Colorado Republican Rep. Scott McInnis a "fruitcake."

However, some members of the Democratic Caucus, after having a night to sleep on it (or sleep it off) apparently had reservations about more far leftwing leadership in the House because this morning we learn that Stark is out and Michigan Representative Sander Levin is in. According to The Hill the Caucus vote was unanimous:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that Rep. Sander Levin will be the interim Ways and Means panel chairman.

Rep. Bob Etheridge (D-N.C.) said Pelosi made the announcement at a meeting of the caucus this morning.

Etheridge said Ways and Means members gave their unanimous backing to Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has been chairman of the subcommittee on trade.

"Pelosi announced it in the caucus and the Ways and Means Committee just unanimously approved it," Etheridge said.

The startling announcement comes a day after Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) appeared ready to take the reins of the committee from Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members revolted at the idea of him leading the committee.

Levin effectively becomes the panel's third chairman in a matter of 25 hours.

I would speculate that this may be an early indicator of some push back in a Democratic Caucus that is surely cracking under enormous pressure. The Texas gubernatorial election reinforced the view that anti Washington sentiment runs deep in both parties and it would be no surprise to see Democrats looking for any reason to quiet the nutcases in their own party on the eve of reconciliation. The Democrats are coming apart at the seams in the House just as the Obama administration is fighting leaks from insiders. It's all coming apart for the liberal Left...just in time for their historic vote on ObamaCare. I think the other guys just blinked.

According to Politico it's all about perception now:

Officially, Stark stepped aside to keep the gavel of the panel's health subcommittee. But lawmakers and aides said Stark faced a rebellion within the committee and the caucus over his sometimes bizarre behavior and penchant for making offensive comments.

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen told Stark at a Ways and Means Committee meeting Wednesday that his stepping aside would be in the best interests of the party, according to a Democratic aide familiar with the meeting.

I think this may be the first reliable indicator that Speaker Pelosi is losing her grip on House Democrats.


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Comments (16)

Oh Boy. The (white male) M... (Below threshold)

Oh Boy. The (white male) MI Democrat. That's gonna be REAL interesting.

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a... (Below threshold)

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi has announced that Rep. Sander Levin will be the interim Ways and Means panel chairman."

Pelosi has got to be pissed off. Stark was "her man". The Democrats on the committee wanted no part of him. Look to Stark to start mouthing off like a petulant child.

Obama and Pelosi are running the Democrats right off the tracks. And the Centrists among them don't have the balls to say 'enough is enough!'

If you think Pelosi's upset... (Below threshold)

If you think Pelosi's upset about having to make this switch, imagine the fireworks when she had to break the news to Fortney.


I've been predicting that P... (Below threshold)

I've been predicting that Pelosi will get ousted as Speaker before the summer. I've changed my mind on that. With all signs pointing to a Republican takeover of the House, who would want to be Speaker for just a few months and also be the fall guy at election time. I think the Dems are going to leave her in and just let her take all of the blame.

Eric - hope you're right. T... (Below threshold)

Eric - hope you're right. The face of the Dem party this fall ought to be botox-ed.

The conservative bloggers s... (Below threshold)

The conservative bloggers shot themselves in the foot this time. Raising all those questions about "Pete" before he was actually in the chair cost you a lot of ammo.

Glenn,Don't worry ... (Below threshold)


Don't worry about our ammo. The Dems keep providing us more. Thanks for your concern, though.

Glenn:I agree with... (Below threshold)


I agree with you - it would have been entertaining to watch this lunatic chair the committee for a little while but how could any conservative resist once they heard the news that Pelosi appointed Pete Stark of all people to that position? The fact that Pelosi sees him as a sane man of reason only reinforces the notion that she herself is totally unfit to be in the position she is in. It was fellow Democrats who saw Stark's appointment as political poison (not to mention guaranteed abundant embarrassment in the future) and they forced Pelosi to back down. Once again the incompetence of Pelosi has been exposed and each one of these missteps leads more and more voters to believe that the Democrats can no longer be trusted to govern this nation. I don't think it is wise to give a guy like Pete Stark any kind of real power and authority because if he was not a member of Congress he would be in an insane asylum. In the end, the nation probably dodged a bullet in not seeing a gavel in the hand of Pete "the more you are in debt the richer you are" Stark.

I was hoping the loon Stark... (Below threshold)

I was hoping the loon Stark would have gotten the post.

Doesn't he also have ethics issues regarding a so-called residence in Maryland?

glenn,No, I believ... (Below threshold)


No, I believe Stark's endorsement by the progressives (FireDogLake) has done more harm. Remember, just a short two weeks ago the good Senator from Indiana resigned because of the takeover of his party by the progressives. This is now resonating within the democratic political community.

If the BlueDogs were smart, they'd realize that any harm to them from Obama/Pelosi/Reid will have a very short shelf life - say like maybe November.

Damn! I was so looking for... (Below threshold)

Damn! I was so looking forward to the bonus side show Stark would provide. I mean, Joe Biden can't carry that torch alone forever.

So bryanD of moon landing d... (Below threshold)

So bryanD of moon landing denier fame, you are blaming the "Jooooooooooooos?"

I never would have guessed ... (Below threshold)

I never would have guessed bryanD was really Pat Buchanan.

Ah yes, John Sununu, that B... (Below threshold)

Ah yes, John Sununu, that BASTION of conservative thought who brought to George Bushs' attention a famous non-TV owning, STILL-living-at-home-with-his-mom-at-50, nominee for the Supreme Court! Didn't THAT turn out well! Thanks, John!!

bryanD "I will NEVER g... (Below threshold)

bryanD "I will NEVER get tired of forwarding this link!"

Oh, [not so] how shocking, you never get tired of perpetuating BS.

Levin may be less disagreea... (Below threshold)

Levin may be less disagreeable than Stark but by giving him the gavel the fringe left has been sent a message that they aren't welcome in leadership positions. In 10 months it will not matter though, they'll be in the minority.

I never get tired of this one BD: http://tiny.cc/F2zT8






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