Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Controversy simmers over Pelosi's choice for key intelligence job"

Cox News:
House Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has set off a power struggle among fellow Democrats and drawn unusually dire warnings from editorial writers coast-to-coast as suspense builds over who will chair the House intelligence committee.

Pelosi, who has already named most of the committee heads along traditional seniority lines, has balked at picking fellow California Rep. Jane Harman, who is now the top Democrat on the highly sensitive intel panel.
Powerful civil rights groups are pressing her to pick the No. 2 in seniority, Rep. Alcee Hastings. But critics and newspaper editorials from the New York Times to the Los Angeles Times, as well as a raft of columnists, say that choice would guarantee a public relations disaster for Democrats, who have pledged to end the "culture of corruption" in the capital.

Hastings, a Florida lawmaker and former federal judge, was impeached on corruption charges nearly 20 years ago. Pelosi was among the overwhelming majority of House Democrats who voted for his impeachment.

Even so, the Black Leadership Forum, a coalition of groups including the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus, has sent a letter to Pelosi saying the forum expects her to select Hastings, along with other veteran black lawmakers who are in line for top House posts. Most of those wishes have been fulfilled, but the intelligence spot is still unfilled.

Conservative Democrats, known as the "Blue Dog" coalition, are pressing the incoming speaker to pick Harman, whose moderate views they support.

Potential compromise choices include Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, a veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol, or Rep. Anna Eshoo of California. Both now serve on the intelligence panel.

Pelosi has sent clear signals that she plans to skip over Harman, who has been criticized by some Democrats for not being tough enough in criticizing the Bush administration's Iraq policies.

Spokesman Drew Hammill said Tuesday that the Select Committee on Intelligence, as it is formally called, is different from other panels. "Seniority doesn't carry over from Congress to Congress," he said, adding that the speaker could not only change the membership but pick "virtually any" House member to be chairman.

He said she would announce her selection no later than early January.

Former Rep. Timothy Roemer, co-chairman of the Sept. 11 commission, said his advice to Pelosi would be "to be creative" in her choice.

Roemer, who was a "Blue Dog" Democrat when he served in the House, said the decision would be one of the most important for the new speaker. "It's like the president picking a cabinet," he said, adding that the intelligence committee post is a key indicator for the party's foreign policy positions.

"This is no short order cook" job, he added. "She needs to get somebody who is an articulate spokesperson, open to new ideas, (who) can be effective in the media, and also work in a bipartisan manner."

Roemer suggested that Pelosi could go outside the committee to select Rep. Norm Dicks of Washington, who previously served on the intelligence panel; Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois lawmaker who led the party's successful election campaign in the House and who previously worked in the Clinton White House; or Rep. Adam Schiff of California, currently serving on the House International Relations Committee.

Asked about the reaction if Pelosi should pick Hastings as chairman, Roemer said, "There will be a beehive full of Republicans with their talking points already written, ready to go after whoever she picks. She has to make sure she doesn't give them a lot of ammunition on this particular appointment."
Thanks to SusanUnPC for the tip.

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