Pelosi Passes Hastings for Intel Chair

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 29, 2006; 9:07 AM

WASHINGTON -- In a decision that could roil Democratic unity in the new House, Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi passed over Rep. Alcee Hastings Tuesday for the chairmanship of the Intelligence Committee.

Hastings, currently the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, had been aggressively making a case for the top position, supported by members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Critics pointed out that he had been impeached when he was a federal judge and said naming him to such a sensitive post would be a mistake just as the Democrats take over House control pledging reforms.

"I am obviously disappointed with this decision," Hastings, D-Fla., said in a statement thanking his supporters and promising to work with the panel's still-unnamed chairman. "I will be seeking better and bigger opportunities in a Democratic Congress. There is much to be accomplished and little time to reset this nation's economic and spiritual compass."

He learned his bid for the chairmanship was unsuccessful during a closed-door meeting with Pelosi on Tuesday.

In a statement, Pelosi, D-Calif., said Hastings has made national security his highest priority. "He has served our country well, and I have full confidence that he will continue to do so," she said.

In a sign of the bitterness that has surrounded the debate, Hastings closed his statement by saying: "Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet."

The chairman of the Black Caucus, Rep. Melvin Watt of North Carolina, said Hastings' statement showed "an unequivocal commitment to our nation's security, selflessness and true statesmanship. He would have made an outstanding intelligence chairman, and we still hope he will at some point in our nation's future."

A Democratic congressional aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity about internal party deliberations, said Pelosi has not yet decided who will get the position when the new Congress convenes in January.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, is next in line in seniority and is considered a strong contender for the job. Still, naming him would be a snub to the current senior Democrat on the panel, Jane Harman of California. Her committee leadership term expires at year's end, and she could be reappointed by Pelosi. Yet the two are believed to have deep differences.

Hastings, who came to Congress in 1992, was charged in an FBI bribery sting but acquitted by a federal jury in 1983. Some judicial colleagues said Hastings fabricated his defense, and their allegations led to his impeachment by the U.S. House in 1988. He was removed from the bench by the Senate the following year.

In 1997, the Justice Department found an agent had falsely testified against Hastings, but no action was taken to reopen his case.

In 2000, Democrats passed over another member of the Congressional Black Caucus _ Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia _ for the senior Democratic spot on the intelligence panel. Party leaders had agreed to give the position to Harman when she ran for Congress after an unsuccessful bid to be California governor.

© 2006 The Associated Press