The AP, via the Balto. Sun:
House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has chosen a Border-Patrol-agent-turned-congressman to lead the House Intelligence Committee, according to congressional aides.
Democratic leaders are contacting congressional and other political officials to tell them Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, will be the new chairman of the committee when Democrats take over in January, said the two aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they considered it an internal party issue.
The selection of Reyes marks one of the few committee assignments that was still a question after Democrats won control of the House of Representatives last month. It set up an early challenge for Pelosi, who had sole discretion on the selection.
The California Democrat had to navigate a series of candidates -- and their supporters -- who were vying for the post. In the end, Pelosi bypassed two more senior intelligence committee members -- Reps. Jane Harman, D-Calif., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. -- to select Reyes.
Harman is currently the committee's top Democrat, and her leadership term expires this year. She could have been reappointed by Pelosi, but the two are said to have political differences.
Some critics and ethics watchdogs questioned whether Hastings was the right person for the post, which has access to some of the nation's top secrets. He is Congress' only impeached federal judge.
In a sign of the bitterness that has surrounded the issue, Hastings closed a statement this week, in which he announced he would not get the job, with: "Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet."
After navigating the Hoyer v. Murtha minefield, even though it was really a much bigger deal in the blogosphere than inside the Caucus, Pelosi surely didn't relish the idea of a mis-step in the Harman v. Hastings battle. The lines were drawn in the sand. Glenn Greenwald, speaking for a significant chunk of left blogostan, had flatly declared Harman unacceptable for the helm of the committee, calling her, "among the worst choices Pelosi could make."
Hastings, who presented himself as the next logical successor (even though membership and seniority on a Select Committee like Intelligence is technically entirely discretionary), immediately had his detractors. Though there were some who came to his defense, the bottom-line takeaway from a Hastings chairmanship was this: he's the only current Member of Congress who's actually been impeached for bribery.
So finding a third candidate was a no-brainer, right? Well, not so fast. Internal Caucus politics guide these things much more than public perception or pressure, as we learned in the Majority Leader battle. Bypassing Hastings might mean a confrontation with the Congressional Black Caucus, whose Members might take umbrage at bypassing Hastings for a chairmanship. Anyone who remembers how steadfastly CBC Members stood by (and continue to stand by) their colleague, Rep. William Jefferson of Louisiana, will know that the CBC jealously guards the earned seniority of its Members.
But as little as Pelosi could afford another embarrassing entanglement over yet another internal matter, so, perhaps, the CBC felt it could ill-afford kicking off the 110th Congress standing by two Members under ethical attack.
Then, just as suddenly as this all began, it was over, with the announcement that the Hastings bid was over, with competing claims over who made the decision. Did Hastings drop his bid? Or did Pelosi refuse him? For a while, the answer depended on who you were talking to, but the shake-out seems to be that Pelosi drove the stake in. And so far, the CBC has had little to say about it.
Is Hastings bitter? You tell me. Note the close of his statement: "Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet."
The question is, does Hastings harbor bitterness against Pelosi and the Caucus at large? Or against the CBC? How might you feel if you protested your innocence, too, but found yourself over the side, while Jefferson was still comfortably seated on the CBC boat?
But, it's all over now, right?
One thing you may not know about Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx), now being considered as a compromise candidate to chair the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI), is that he joined his friend and colleague, outgoing congressman Curt Weldon at a meeting with infamous Iran Contra arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar, against the advice of the Agency, and without informing the U.S. ambassador in Paris, as is proper protocol. The meeting took place at the Sofitel hotel on Rue Boissy D'Anglas around the corner from the US embassy in Paris on a Saturday morning in the spring of 2004 (see update below), according to two sources. (The US government was actually surveilling the hotel lobby that morning out of concern that Iranians might potentially try to harm the congressmen; Weldon apparently loudly asked the concierge for a room for a secret meeting). Ghorbanifar and his business partner were trying to entice the U.S. congressmen to take up the cause of trying to make Ghorbanifar a paid U.S. intelligence asset again on the Middle East, but the CIA would have nothing to do with him, given that he was deemed a fabricator and made the subject of two CIA burn notices in the 1980s, and caused much grief for U.S. policymakers who dealt with him during the Iran Contra affair....
We may yet be in for quite a ride. And while I doubt very much that this news has any chance of changing Pelosi's decision, Congress watchers may want to grab some extra popcorn this year. Because the much-vaunted "subpoena power" looks like it's come to rest in the hands of an Intel chairman who rolls with Crazy Curt Weldon.
Hang onto your hats. And if the winds kick up before the gavel drops in January, look for Pelosi to have to tack through a new maelstrom, this time with the Hispanic Caucus.