Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) decided to appoint Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes to head the House Intelligence Committee. Georgia’s Sanford Bishop was rumored to be on the short list for the post.
Many Democrats, especially in Georgia, thought Bishop – an African American and member of the Blue Dog Coalition – to be a very attractive alternative to the committee’s most senior members, Alcee Hastings and Jane Harman. Pelosi ruled-out Hastings because of his turbulent past. She passed on Harman largely because of an ongoing political rivalry.
The chairmanship appointment was seen in Congress as the second major test of the incoming Speaker’s leadership. But on Friday, Pelosi announced Reyes will be the Intel Chair for the 110th Congress.
Pelosi’s announcement ended weeks of speculation within the party about who would get the key position, a question that had created political turmoil for her before she takes her new leadership post.
The Texan has said he will demand more information on the Bush administration’s most classified programs, including the detention of enemy combatants and the National Security Agency’s warrantless surveillance of domestic communications.
He also plans to focus on the war in Iraq, threats from terrorists, the spread of weapons, diversity at U.S. intelligence agencies and civil liberties.
And this is not the first time Pelosi has left Bishop at the altar.
Pelosi passed over a member of the Black Caucus for a second time. In 2000, she allowed Harman to leapfrog Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia for the intelligence panel’s top Democratic slot. By choosing Reyes, Pelosi elevated the panel’s No. 3 Democrat and gained favor with Hispanic groups who represent the fastest growing demographic classification in America.
But at least Hastings was taking the disappointment in stride.
As for Hastings, some critics and ethics watchdogs had questioned whether the Florida lawmaker — who was impeached as a federal judge — was the right person for a post that has access to some of the nation’s top secrets.
In a sign that not all hard feelings are gone, a Hastings statement this week announcing he would not get the job closed with: “Sorry, haters, God is not finished with me yet.”
It looks like the “haters” may have a new Cynthia McKinney on their hands with Hastings. But Democrats should be glad this whole mess is behind them… for now.