Hastings is denied House chairmanship

Pelosi won't put him in charge of intelligence panel

November 29, 2006|By Greg Miller | Greg Miller,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming speaker of the House, said yesterday that she would not name Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, a Florida Democrat, as the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, creating new uncertainty around one of the chamber's most important leadership positions.

In a written statement, Pelosi said she had met with Hastings and "advised him that I would select someone else as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee."

Pelosi, who will become speaker when her party takes control of the House in January, did not explain why she was bypassing Hastings, the panel's second-ranking Democrat. Her office indicated previously that the top Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman, a California Democrat, will not be reappointed to the committee.

The possibility that Hastings would get the post created a torrent of criticism, especially since Pelosi had pledged to lead "the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history." In 1989, he was forced to step down as a federal judge in Florida after being impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate of taking part in a bribery scheme involving the sentencing of two defendants convicted in his court of racketeering.

Hastings, who has maintained his innocence, had been acquitted of similar charges in a criminal trial six years earlier, but a federal judicial commission urged Congress to reconsider his case. He first ran for Congress in 1992 and has been overwhelmingly re-elected since then.

Last week he wrote a letter to Democratic colleagues, lobbying for the chairmanship. He released a statement yesterday indicating a desire to remain on the panel, known formally as the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, where he has served for seven years.

"I am obviously disappointed with this decision," Hastings said in a statement that included a swipe at critics.

"I will be seeking better and bigger opportunities in a Democratic Congress," he said. "Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet."

Pelosi's decision leaves a hole in the Democratic leadership ranks. The removal of Harman from the committee, which has not been formally announced, was seen as part of an effort to settle a debt with the Congressional Black Caucus, to which Hastings belongs. Another caucus member had been bumped from the panel when Harman was re-elected to Congress in 2000 - and was reappointed to the committee - after her failed run for governor.

The Black Caucus had no immediate comment.

Democratic aides indicated that Pelosi probably would select someone not on the committee to become its chairman. Among the potential candidates is Rep. Norm Dicks, a Washington Democrat who was on the panel for eight years in the 1990s and is familiar with the classified budgets of the nation's spy agencies from his service on the House Appropriations Committee.

Such a move is gathering support among influential Democrats on Capitol Hill. Tim Roemer, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana and a member of the Sept. 11 commission, said Pelosi should "go off the committee and appoint somebody brand new."

Greg Miller writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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