Will Pelosi stumble again by choosing a member with a checkered past to lead the House Intelligence Committee?
Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi, who stumbled badly last week when she publicly backed the failed candidacy of Rep. John Murtha for majority leader, could be headed for another political tumble if she presses ahead with long-standing plans to elevate Rep. Alcee Hastings, a senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, to the panel's chairmanship.
A Democratic aide says Pelosi has not decided who she will name as chairman of the intelligence panel, but that she was leaning against the current top Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman. Her preferred nominee has long been Hastings, but like Murtha he has his own ethically challenged history. And while the broad outlines of that past are well known, the grimy specifics are only now emerging.
Pelosi may has few good options in the current dilemma. If she decides to replace Harman with someone other than Hastings, she could easily offend the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), which has insisted that Hastings' seniority entitles him to the position. But some aides have also rumored that there might be another solution: installing a former panel member, Georgia Rep. Sanford Bishop, who is also African-American, in place of either Harman or Hastings. Whatever happens, one thing is clear; after her Murtha debacle, Pelosi — and the Democrats for that matter — cannot afford another misstep so early in her tenure.