- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2006

House Democrats will find out today which positions of power they will wield in the new Congress, and the magic numbers for members of the Congressional Black Caucus are five and 17.

“That sounds about right, based on seniority,” said Reps. Bobby L. Rush, Illinois Democrat, and Albert R. Wynn, Maryland Democrat.

The CBC expects at least five committee chairmanships and as many as 17 subcommittee chairmanships to be led by its members in the 110th Congress after a vote by the Democratic Caucus concludes shortly after noon today. But some said the numbers might not exactly reflect seniority alone on the subcommittee seats.

“You select chairmanships based on seniority, but someone in your caucus can challenge a senior member, and they will have five minutes to explain why they should be the chair and then the committee votes on who should fill that seat,” said a Democratic staffer.

And much of this could be affected by the battle between Reps. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland and John P. Murtha of Pennsylvania for majority leader.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California backs Mr. Murtha, while Mr. Hoyer has support from many CBC members. That race is becoming extremely contentious and stems from the fight between Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Hoyer for minority whip in 2001, which Mrs. Pelosi won.

“What can happen is Mrs. Pelosi can decide to throw her support to someone for a chairmanship, which would give that person a lot of sway with the committee members,” said the staffer.

House committees that will be chaired by CBC members are:

• Ways and Means: Rep. Charles B. Rangel of New York.

• Homeland Security: Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.

• Administration: Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald of California.

• Judiciary: Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

Mrs. Pelosi has said publicly that she would support Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, but a staffer in Mrs. Pelosi’s office said a decision would not come before Congress returns from the Thanksgiving recess in early December.

“We are strongly supporting Alcee Hastings. I don’t think there should be any doubt or question about that,” said Rep. Melvin L. Watt, North Carolina Democrat and CBC chairman.

There is concern about Mr. Hastings’ past ethics problems. He was a federal district judge in Florida before coming to Congress in 1992, but was impeached and removed from his judgeship in 1989 for bribery and perjury despite being acquitted on all charges in a criminal trial, a first in American politics.

Mr. Hastings said he has visited more than 25 intelligence posts around the world in expectation of this “opportunity” and has gotten support from Democratic members of the Florida delegation.

“People around the country are sending Mrs. Pelosi letters and e-mails on my behalf that I have not solicited, and Nancy has not spoken to me about her intentions as yet, but it is all political, and I am hoping to get the job,” Mr. Hastings said.

Rep. Jane Harman, California Democrat, is the current ranking member, but there has been tension between her and Mrs. Pelosi, as she is a member of the more conservative Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats, that is friendly with Mr. Hoyer.

She was able to secure her position on the committee, after leaving to run for governor and then returning to Congress, through a deal in which the former ranking member on intelligence, CBC member Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia was eased off the committee so Mrs. Harman could take over.

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