John Feehery: Speaking Engagements

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Why Pelosi Stuck With Rangel

Posted on March 4, 2010
Charlie Rangel is not crazy.  He may be liberal.  He may be corrupt.  He may be a partisan.  But he is not crazy.

The same cannot be said of Pete Stark, the man who will take Charlie Rangel’s place.

This reminds me a little bit of when Tom Foley had to find a replacement for Dan Rostenkowski during critical moment in the Clinton health care push, and put Sam Gibbons in the Chairman’s Chair.  Gibbons was not nearly as crazy at Pete Stark, but he wasn’t nearly as competent as Rosty, and Hillary’s health care died as a result.

Pete Stark is certifiable.  He has a penchant for disparaging just about everybody.

He once told a constituent: "I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg, it wouldn't be worth wasting the urine.”  He Called Blue Dog Democrats, the folks he needs to pass his health care bill,  "brain dead."  He said the Bush Administration sent soldiers "to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President's amusement."   According to Gannet, during the run-up to the Persian Gulf War, he called fellow liberals Tom Lantos and Stephen Solarz 'hostile militant guys,' suggesting their votes were 'as a matter of convenience' for Israel."  He claimed that the children of one of his African American colleagues were “all born out of wedlock.”

This is the man that Nancy Pelosi has to invite to all of the health care meetings now.  With all due respect to the Energy and Commerce Committee, the Ways and Means Committee is the place where most health care policy is driven.  Without the input of the Committee, the process will driven completely out of the leadership office of the Speaker, whose expertise won’t be nearly as deep or as substantive.

The problem for Pelosi goes beyond health care however.  From taxes to entitlement spending to most other major policy, the Ways and Means Committee is the central place where things happen.  Having an unreliable Chairman spells trouble for so many other things on the President’s agenda.

The other problem for Pelosi is that the names after Stark aren’t much better until you get to Richie Neal.  Neal is a liberal legislator from Massachusetts, but he has a good head on his shoulders.  He gets along well with Blue Dog Democrats and he has many friends on the Republican side of the aisle as well.

But for Pelosi to get to Neal, she will have to bypass John Lewis, Sandy Levin and Jim McDermott, which won’t be easy to do.  In fact, with Pelosi forcing Rangel out, the CBC will rebel if John Lewis doesn’t eventually get the spot.

All of this makes for a very interesting couple of months for House Democrats.  Pelosi has consolidated most power and run roughshod over her Committees for most of her tenure as Speaker.  With Stark as Chairman, Pelosi will probably be forced to take over even more control of a Committee that hasn’t been doing much ever since Rangel’s troubles put him under an ethical cloud.

For a Democratic majority that is already facing a November expiration date, this is not a very welcome development.