Levin takes over as Congress’ top tax writer

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – Representative Sander Levin took over on Thursday as top tax writer for the Congress, replacing fellow Democrat Charles Rangel, who stepped down under an ethics cloud.

“Levin is good, he’s thorough, he’s got a good reputation,” Rangel said of the new chairman of the tax-writing House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee.

A liberal who reflects the pro-union tradition of his home state of Michigan, Levin, 78, has pushed for workers’ rights in U.S. trade agreements. He has also favored increasing taxes on hedge fund and private equity managers, and vowed as chairman to help push the drive to revamp U.S. healthcare.

One of the biggest items on Levin’s agenda will be dealing with the more than $1 trillion in tax cuts enacted over Democratic objections during Republican George W. Bush’s administration and set to expire at year’s end.

“A lot of business clients are concerned” what Levin might do on a host of fronts, said an industry lobbyist who asked not to be identified by name.

Rangel stepped aside as chairman on Wednesday after being admonished last week by the House ethics committee for corporate-paid trips in violation of the chamber’s gift rules.

Democrat Representative Pete Stark, next in the committee’s line of seniority, initially inherited the chairmanship.

But Stark relinquished the post on Thursday, saying he wanted to remain chair of the panel’s health subcommittee while Congress nears what Democrats hope will be passage of landmark legislation to revamp the U.S. healthcare system.

Lawmakers said Stark made the decision to step aside, but others made it clear he faced pressure to do so, in part because of the 78-year-old lawmaker’s fragile health.

“Also, philosophically, he is not where a majority of the (House Democratic) caucus is,” the aide said. “He is far more liberal.”

INTEMPERATE REMARKS

In addition, the outspoken Stark has a reputation for embarrassing headlines and intemperate remarks. He once called a Republican colleague “a wimp” and another a “whore for the insurance industries.”

Rangel said he was stepping aside as chairman temporarily, pending a completion of other ethics probes into his personal finances. It’s uncertain if he will ever get back the gavel.

Even if current ethics probes clear him of any wrongdoing, he carries the public admonishment given to him last week.

Rangel surrendered the chairmanship after a growing number of Republicans as well as some fellow Democrats urged him to do so. Democrats were concerned his ethics woes could hurt them in the November congressional elections.

Levin referred to himself as “acting chairman.”

In a statement, Levin said as head of the committee he looked forward to “moving vigorously” on “critical issues facing American families, including job creation, economic development, and healthcare.”

House Republican Leader John Boehner ridiculed Democrats’ efforts to regroup in the wake of Rangel’s fall from power.

“I’m glad they figured out who the chairman really will be,” Boehner said, adding he sent condolences to Stark for having had the shortest tenure ever as committee chair.

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(Additional reporting by Donna Smith, John Whitesides, Richard Cowan and Kim Dixon; editing by David Alexander and Todd Eastham)

Levin takes over as Congress’ top tax writer