The Pelosi-Harman rift
|I know I know, it's not happening in California. But there is a big decision brewing in Washington between two Californians, new Speaker Nancy Pelosi and ranking Democrat on House Intelligence Jane Harman.|
At issue is whether Pelosi will appoint Harman to chair the House Intelligence committee. As the ranking Democrat, Harman would seem to be in line for the post. But last year Pelosi's camp revealed that Harman wasn't the preferred choice (the Intelligence committee is one of the few committee where the leader can easily trump seniority in making appointments).
In any case, the LA Times today has a terrific primer on the how Pelosi and Harman arrived at where they are today.
Here's some of the meat of the story:
Some California Democrats say tensions began during the 2001 redistricting of the state's congressional seats.
As lawmakers from both parties cooperated in Sacramento to make Democratic seats safer for Democrats and GOP seats safer for Republicans, Harman reportedly complained that her district did not include Los Angeles International Airport.
"She wanted to get the LAX asset in her district," said one Californian who was familiar with the process. "Jane thinks the airport is power."
Party leaders were annoyed, given that the redistricting gave Harman — who until then represented a swing district — a safe seat.
A Capitol Hill staffer suggested that Pelosi also was miffed that Harman had higher visibility in the media.
Harman, using her platform as ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, landed on Sunday talk shows so regularly that she all but eclipsed Pelosi's rising star as House minority leader. An informal survey of the major talk shows over the last two years found that Harman made 18 appearances to Pelosi's six.
Associates of Pelosi say she was not troubled that Harman was on television frequently, only that Democrats' message on Iraq wasn't being aired.
Some Democrats say Pelosi's choice for intelligence chair is less about personal conflict than fixing a political problem, which ironically began with Harman's return to the House in 2001.
After Harman lost her gubernatorial bid, Pelosi urged her to run for Congress again. Harman's choice was made easier by the fact that then-Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) had promised her in writing that she could reclaim her seniority on the Intelligence Committee. That bumped a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.), off the committee and jumped her over another African American, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.), in seniority.
Black members of Congress were upset by what they saw as a slap by House Democratic leaders. Last year the black caucus asked for a meeting, and according to one witness, Pelosi promised not to slight either blacks or Latinos when plum slots came up on the Intelligence and Homeland Security committees.