Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) was set to take over the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee from embattled Sen. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). But Stark’s stint was over before it began because his controversial personality — and unreliable loyalty to Speaker Pelosi — meant he couldn’t take over one of the most powerful committees in congress. .
Stark entered Washingtonian politics in 1972, elected to represent the 13th District of California and joining the House Ways and Means Committee in his third term.
Throughout his career, Stark has developed a penchant for making provocative comments regarding fellow colleagues.
When it was announced that Stark was in line to become the next chair of the Ways and Means Committee, the Republican National Committee (RNC) took immediate action in utilizing the internet to release a compilation of Stark’s most controversial comments.
In their online briefing entitled ‘Who is Pete Stark,’ the RNC posted controversial comments from Stark dating back to the early 1990’s.
In 1990, because Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan opposed proposals for federal health insurance, Stark called him a ‘disgrace to his race.’ At the time, Sullivan was the only black on the cabinet. The incident was reported by the AP.
According to The Ocala Star-Banner, Stark refused to apologize for his comment, going even further by saying that Sullivan lived on the ‘plantation’ of White House Chief of staff John Sununu.
According to a 2001 Washington Post article, Stark unapologetically accused the children of former Rep. J.C. Watts (R-Okla ) of being ‘all born out of wedlock.’
One of Stark’s most notable instances was an exchange with one of his constituents angry about the public healthcare option.
In the exchange, the constituent told Stark, ‘Mr. Congressman, don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.’
According to the Politico, Stark responded by saying ‘I wouldn’t dignify you by peeing on your leg, it wouldn’t be worth wasting the urine,’ said Stark.
The RNC post also attempted to demonstrate Stark’s willingness to insult those affiliated with the Republican Party, but also those within his own party.
According to the AP, Stark once called Blue Dog Democrats ‘brain dead’ for being willing to work with Republicans on healthcare.
‘They’re for the most part, I hate to say brain dead, but they’re just looking to raise money from insurance companies and promote a right-wing agenda that is not really very useful in this whole process,’ Stark told reporters.
The RNC’s also cited instances in which he also made sexist remarks, at one point calling a female colleague a “whore for the insurance industries.”
Throughout his whole career in public life, Stark has been active in advocating far left causes and for being unwilling to work in a bipartisan manner on legislation.
The Almanac of American Politics (2008) noted that Stark is a product of the peace movement of the 1960’s.
In 1963, Stark started a bank in the Bay Area that featured a giant peace symbol on the building and the same icon on the bank’s checks.
In March 2003, he labeled the bombing of Iraq as “an act of extreme act of terrorism.”
Stark went further in 2007 and said that President Bush sent troops to get their heads blown off for their amusement, according to the Hill.
As of Thursday (March 4th), Rep. Sander Levin (D-Michigan) is now set to chair the House Ways and Means Committee after Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) received fire for her selection of Stark.
Levin represents Michigan’s 12th district, which is home to some in the auto industry,
Pelosi’s move is an untraditional one since Levin was not the senior-most member on the Ways and Means Committee.
During his time on the Ways and Means committee, he has split from the GOP on issues of welfare and personal retirement accounts on various occasions. He opposed the 1995 welfare bills passed by Republicans.
Levin also called President George W. Bush’s warnings about the doom of social security exaggerated.
Concerning the war in Iraq, Rep. Levin favored a more international approach.
His brother Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan) serves as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, another very influential committee on Capitol Hill.