Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus returns to a very important subject that I blogged about last week -- whether Nancy Pelosi will appoint Alcee Hastings as chair of the Intelligence Committee if the Democrats take the House:
If Democrats win control of the House next week, Nancy Pelosi's first test as speaker will arrive long before the 110th Congress convenes. Her choice to head the House intelligence committee -- unlike other House committees, this one is left entirely up to the party leadership -- will speak volumes about whether a Speaker Pelosi will be able to resist a return to paint-by-numbers Democratic Party interest-group politics as usual.
Pelosi is in a box of her own devising. The panel's ranking Democrat is her fellow Californian Jane Harman -- smart and hardworking but also abrasive, ambitious and, in Pelosi's estimation, insufficiently partisan on the committee. So Pelosi, once the intelligence panel's ranking Democrat herself, has made clear that she doesn't intend to name Harman to the chairmanship.
The wrong decision, in my view, but one that's magnified by the unfortunate fact that next in line is Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings. In 1989, after being acquitted in a criminal trial, Hastings was stripped of his position as a federal judge -- impeached by the House in which he now serves and convicted by the Senate -- for conspiring to extort a $150,000 bribe in a case before him, repeatedly lying about it under oath and manufacturing evidence at his trial.
However, as one of my colleagues at Duke pointed out to me, these kinds of decisions aren't strictly up to Pelosi; the Democratic caucus would decide how much power to give her as speaker, and how committee chairs are to be selected, after the election. If they pick up some marginal "red state" seats, the pressure from those members not to appoint Hastings will be very strong.