Incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday tapped Texas Rep. Silvestre Reyes to be the next chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, ending what had become a distracting fight among Democrats over who should get the influential post.
Reyes, 62, a former Border Patrol agent, will occupy a key position for Democrats seeking to use their new majority status to challenge the Bush administration on national security issues ranging from conduct of the war in Iraq to the capture and interrogation of terrorism suspects abroad.
"One of the frustrations that I have felt has been a propensity for Congress to be a rubber stamp to just about anything the (Bush) administration has proposed," Reyes said Friday. "I intend to be much more aggressive."
His appointment comes amid signs of a shake-up on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senate aides said that GOP leaders plan to remove Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., as the top Republican on the panel. Possible replacements include Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. John Warner, R-Va., who is scheduled to step down as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
In selecting Reyes - widely viewed as a compromise candidate - Pelosi sought to quiet a controversy over her handling of personnel issues in assembling her leadership team. Pelosi, of San Francisco, had drawn criticism from Democratic colleagues for deciding to bypass two senior members of the panel - Reps. Jane Harman, D-Calif., and Alcee Hastings, D-Fla. - who had lobbied aggressively for the job.
Harman, the senior Democrat on the panel, was pushed aside in part because of a political feud with Pelosi. Hastings was rejected largely over ethics concerns. Before being elected to Congress, Hastings was forced to step down from a position as a federal judge in Florida after being impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate of conspiring to accept a bribe from two defendants convicted of racketeering.