From Time’s Jay Newton-Small:
ABC News reported that Michigan’s Sander Levin, the No. 3 Democrat on the panel would take the chairmanship. Levin’s got obvious tie to unions and Detroit, a linkage that didn’t seem to handicap John Dingell at the helm of the Energy and Commerce Committee for so many years, but Dingell wasn’t writing corporate tax laws. The No. 2 on the panel, Pete Stark, is a long time advocate for health care reform but doesn’t exactly have the, um, temperament for such a high profile job. The No. 4 is Jim McDermott, who also has a history of rash decisions. No 5 is civil right legend John Lewis who brings the gravitas, if not the passionate wonkishness needed for a life steeped in IRS codes. Which leaves No. 6, Massachusetts’s Richard Neal, whom Rangel has been grooming for the past year as his heir apparent. The problem, as Bloomberg News’ Ryan Donmoyer notes, is how to get to Neal without pissing off four very senior members of the conference.
To avoid the prospect of an embarrassing vote, he decided to take a proactive step. It’s a small step, though: it doesn’t solve the optics problem, and it doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence in Democrats that Pete Stark, 79, an opponent of cap and trade legislation and a bit of a maverick, would be next in line. The leadership does not trust Stark with the gavel.
Then comes Rep. Sander Levin, the number three Democrat on the taxwriting committee, who is a Michigan Democrat with close ties to organized labor and who doesn’t have the reputation of being an effective parliamentarian. Labor would love a Levin committee, but the administration, which is pursuing trade agreements that Levin opposes, would not.
Rangel wants Richard Neal, to whom he has already given several key responsibilities, to be his successor. Neal would treat the tax pros and business interests that come before the committee with more respect, in theory. But Neal isn’t tops on the list in terms of seniority — he’d have to bypass civil rights hero John Lewis — and Nancy Pelosi has given no indication that she intends to uptend the seniority system that has been the source of committee chair power for so long.