D.C. Council member Phil Mendelson bested Chairman Kwame R. Brown during budget talks last summer, when he led a behind-the-scenes effort to raise taxes on the District’s top earners despite the chairman’s staunch opposition to the idea.
Now he’s poised to take over Brown’s post as the city’s second-most powerful politician, after the latter resigned last Wednesday and pleaded guilty to bank fraud and a campaign finance violation two days later.
Council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, circulated a resolution Tuesday that names Mr. Mendelson as acting chairman and council member Michael A. Brown, at-large independent, as chairman pro tem, the council’s second in command.
Lawmakers are expected to approve the resolution in a vote Wednesday morning, barring a last-minute maneuver by council member Vincent B. Orange, at-large Democrat, who lost the 2010 chairman’s race to Brown and is still interested in the job.
He noted that both he and Mr. Mendelson are Democrats and that neither of them is under formal investigation. His new position should prompt debate from the dais on whether to accept Ms. Cheh’s resolution as it is crafted, or split it up and force members to decide between Mr. Orange and Mr. Brown for the pro tem position.
“He’s nothing if not persistent,” she said. “He’s just making a lot of maneuvers.”
“An informal consensus started to form,” she said.
Last year, Mr. Mendelson rallied the majority in a testy 7-6 vote from the council dais to create the new tax bracket for top earners and to make sure holders of out-of-state bonds were not taxed retroactively. His ability to wrangle seven votes helped the council reach a compromise on lingering squabbles over the bonds tax and higher income taxes for high-earners - a pair of proposals that vexed constituents in wealthier parts of the District.
The episode offered credence to the “balance” - as council member Yvette M. Alexander, Ward 7 Democrat, put it Monday - that Mr. Mendelson is expected to bring to the legislative body.