Pelosi’s Pick of Stark “Not Without Problems”

March 3, 2010

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has picked liberal firebrand Rep. Pete Stark to replace ousted Chairman Charles Rangel on the tax-writing committee, according to a House leadership aide.

The decision was made during a Wednesday morning leadership meeting following Rangel’s announcement that he would temporarily step aside as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, the aide said.

Rangel (N.Y.) had come under growing pressure in the wake of several ethics investigations, and he faced a vote Wednesday on a GOP-backed privileged resolution to force his ouster.

GOP lawmakers said they still intended to go forward with the resolution, saying Rangel’s “temporary” withdrawal as chairman was not good enough.

Before Rangel’s announcement, the resolution appeared to be attracting enough Democratic support to win approval.

In Stark, Pelosi is picking a fellow Californian to head one of the House’s most powerful committees. Stark becomes the sixth House Democratic chairman from the Golden State.

Stark is next in line for the post in seniority, but his maverick personality had led some to question whether he would get the gavel even on a temporary basis.

The 19-term Democrat has a penchant for making controversial remarks. In 2003, Stark challenged then Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo.) to a fight during a Ways and Means Committee hearing, calling him “a fruitcake.” He also said in 2007 that President George W. Bush was amused by the heads of U.S. soldiers getting blown off. Pelosi condemned the remarks and Stark subsequently apologized on the House floor.

Last summer, Stark called Blue Dog Democrats “brain dead.”

Picking Stark, an atheist, is “not without problems” for leaders and potentially for the caucus, according to a Democratic leadership aide.

Read more: (Michael O’Brien and Jared Allen, “Pelosi Picks Fellow Californian to Take Gavel After Rangel Bows Out,” The Hill, 3/03/10)