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Hastings won’t chair intel panel, Pelosi says

Times Staff Writer

Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that she would not name Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) 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, the San Francisco Democrat 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 has previously indicated that the committee’s top Democrat, Rep. Jane Harman of Venice, will not be reappointed.

The possibility that Hastings would get the post created a torrent of criticism, especially because Pelosi pledged to lead “the most honest, the most open and the most ethical Congress in history.”

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In 1989, Hastings 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 that involved the sentencing of two defendants convicted in his court of racketeering.

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

Last week, he wrote a letter to Democratic colleagues, lobbying for the chairmanship.

On Tuesday he released a statement acknowledging he did not get the post but 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.

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“I am obviously disappointed with this decision,” Hastings said in the statement, which included a swipe at his critics. “I will be seeking better and bigger opportunities in a Democratic Congress. Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet.”

Pelosi’s decision leaves a hole in the Democratic leadership ranks. The anticipated elevation of Hastings as chairman and the expected removal of Harman from the panel were seen as efforts to settle a debt with the Congressional Black Caucus, to which Hastings belongs: Another caucus member had been bumped from the panel in 2001 when Harman returned to Congress -- and regained her seniority on the committee -- after an unsuccessful run for governor of California.

Democratic aides indicated that Pelosi would probably tap someone not on the committee to become its chairman. Among the potential candidates is Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), 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 already gathering support among influential Democrats on Capitol Hill. Timothy J. 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.”

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greg.miller@latimes.com


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