This just in: Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich) will replace Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) as chair of the powerful House House Ways and Means Committee, according to a New York Times news flash.
That represents a narrow escape for pro-Israel forces, which feared that Rangel – who stepped down after multiple ethics controversies – would be replaced by Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), who was next in line in the Democratic ranks.
Why the anxiety about Stark?
“I would not count him among Israel’s best 400 friends in the U.S. House of Representatives,” said a longtime-Israel lobbyist. “He’s in a class with (Rep.) Ron Paul,” referring to the Republican/Libertarian lawmaker who ran for the 2008 GOP presidential nomination.
During the 2006 Lebanon war Stark opposed a congressional resolution supporting Israel, saying “I reluctantly rise in opposition to this one-sided resolution that condemns recent attacks against the State of Israel while failing to deplore Israeli violence against the people of Lebanon.” In 1991, he labeled former Rep. Steve Solarz (D-NY) a “field marshal…in the pro-Israel forces” because Solarz supported the Gulf War.
Rangel, on the other hand, has been pretty much a down-the-line supporter of Israel and the major pro-Israel groups, this lobbyist said.
But it was apparently another Stark trait that got him bumped from the Ways and means chair: an abrasive personality that has made him an unpopular figure even among Democratic colleagues. Today the New York Times reported that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) gave the job to Levin, a 14-term House member and a member of the informal House Jewish caucus..