We in California are blessed to have a lot of leadership in the House of Representatives, starting with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and including other caucus leaders like Rep. Xavier Becerra.
It was noteworthy that of the three key committees responsible for health care reform, two are headed by Californians: Chairman George Miller of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Chairman Henry Waxman of the House Energy and Commerce Commitee. But as important has been Rep. Pete Stark, Chair of the Health Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Stark was the next senior person in line after Rep. Charlie Rangel stepped aside due to an ethics investigation yesterday, but Stark decided to step aside and allow Rep. Sander Levin to rise to the post today. Stark says he didn’t want the job, and wants to continue focusing on health care.
This is described in Josh Richman’s Oakland Tribune article, “Why Pete Stark is staying put,” which reads:
The Fremont Democrat told Bay Area News Group that he prefers to remain chairman of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee so he can shepherd and implement health-care reform.
“It seems to me we’ve got a chance in this Congress — maybe, unfortunately, into the next Congress, but over the next three years — the best chance we’ve ever had to get decent health care reform, and I’ve been working on that a long time,” said Stark, who has served in the House since 1973.
“Quite honestly, the idea of being chair of Ways and Means and running around the country trying to raise money is the last thing I want to do,” he added, calling fundraising on behalf of fellow Democrats for the midterm elections “not exactly my long suit.”
Stark, 78, was the next-most-senior Democrat on the tax-writing committee after former Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., 79, who temporarily stepped aside Wednesday pending the conclusion of an Ethics Committee probe into his corporate-paid travel. House rules said Stark would automatically take the chair unless he declined, or unless House Democrats voted to pass him over.
For health advocates, it is good that he is staying focused on health care. Rep. Stark and his staff have been absolute champions for health care reform, and for making the reform as good as it can be.
He has been innovative in advancing grand reform ideas, and small changes that make a big difference in people’s lives. For example, earlier this year, Rep. Stark was heavily involved in making sure people losing their jobs kept their coverage with the help of a COBRA subsidy.
We are proud to continue to work with him as a pivotal leader on health reform, and much more.