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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