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Onlookers Mull Succession Plans

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Rep. Jim McDermott (Wash.) follows Levin in seniority, and several Democrats said he would have a strong case to make. The only psychiatrist in Congress, McDermott, like Stark, has established himself as a health policy expert — a credential that would recommend him in the next Congress, when lawmakers could tackle a major health care overhaul.

But McDermott in April just wrapped up a decade-long ethics dispute of his own by paying House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) more than $1 million for leaking the contents of an illegally taped phone call.

Rep. John Lewis (Ga.) ranks a spot behind McDermott in seniority, though it is not clear whether he would seek to leapfrog into the chairman’s seat given that he is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has vigorously defended the seniority system.

Rounding out the lineup of top Democrats on the panel is Rep. Richard Neal (Mass.), whom several committee watchers described as a rising star.

“He’s young, bright, effective, a team player, well-liked by leadership and well-respected by his colleagues on the committee,” one Democratic lobbyist said of Neal, who is at least a decade younger than the more senior Democrats on the panel.

While most Democrats said the list of possible Rangel replacements ends with Neal, one lobbyist suggested it should stretch further, to include Reps. John Tanner (Tenn.) and Xavier Becerra (Calif.). An open-ended Rangel absence “would be the equivalent of an open seat solidly in one party’s hands. You have a 15-person primary, and the winner gets the seat for life,” this lobbyist said.

With media reports almost daily detailing new omissions in Rangel’s financial reports, House Republicans have maintained a steady barrage of attacks.

They are calling for Rangel to step aside and blasting vulnerable Democrats who have benefited from his political contributions. This week, they are expected to offer a privileged resolution on the matter.

Rangel’s office referred questions about his future on the panel to his lawyers, who declined to comment.

A Pelosi spokesman likewise declined to comment. As recently as Friday, she came to Rangel’s defense, blasting the Republican attacks on him in a letter to Boehner.

Jennifer Bendery contributed to this report.

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