Political Notebook

Springfield Democrat is long shot for Rangel role

Richard Neal is considered too young to chair the House Ways and Means Committee. Richard Neal is considered too young to chair the House Ways and Means Committee.
March 4, 2010

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WASHINGTON - With US Representative Charles Rangel giving up the gavel as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Springfield Democrat Richard Neal has been discussed as a possible replacement - but his odds are long, Democratic staffers say.

“Among the people that I’ve been hearing, I don’t hear his name mentioned as frequently as others,’’ said one Democratic aide.

Four House Democrats have more seniority than Neal on Ways and Means: Pete Stark, Sandy Levin, Jim McDermott, and John Lewis. For Neal to become chairman, the Democrats would have to break from the traditional method of choosing a chairman based on seniority.

“I think he would be best leader from a tax standpoint,’’ said Christopher Bergin, president and publisher of Tax Analysts, a tax policy nonprofit. Neal is chairman of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.

Stark, who is 78 and battling health problems, said yesterday he would accept the position on a temporary basis. After midterm elections, a permanent successor would be chosen should Rangel not return to his post.

If Neal is chosen, Democrats would have to pass over Levin, a 14-term Michigan Democrat, followed by McDermott, of Washington, and Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who like Rangel is a member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

A spokesman for Neal declined to comment on whether Neal was interested in the chairman position.

One senior Democratic congressman, who asked not to be named discussing internal party negotiations, said that Neal is well liked and could become chairman a few years from now, but at 61 he’s considered too young - just a few years above the House average of 57.2.

Rangel stepped down temporarily as chairman yesterday after the House ethics committee accused him of violating House gift rules. -- GLOBE STAFF

Bill restricts restraining unruly schoolchildren
WASHINGTON - Physically restraining unruly schoolchildren or locking them in isolated spaces would be subject to restrictions under legislation passed by the House yesterday. Lawmakers were responding to reports that abuses of restraint and seclusion methods have resulted in children being injured or even killed.

George Miller, a California Democrat who chairs the House Education and Labor Committee, said the US government needed to step in because state laws were not always effective. He cited the 2002 case in Texas of a 129-pound, 14-year-old who died after his 230-pound teacher placed him facedown on the floor and lay on top of him.

The bill, which passed 262 to 153, sets guidelines that allow physical restraint or locked seclusion only when there is imminent danger of injury. It bans mechanical restraints such as strapping children to chairs or duct-taping body parts, and prohibits using unprescribed medications.

It applies to public and private schools and preschools that receive federal education money.

The legislation arose out of a congressional report last year documenting hundreds of cases of apparent abuse over the past two decades. -- ASSOCIATED PRESS

Congress may put up fight over plan to restrict banks
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration put forward legislation yesterday to rein in the size and scope of the nation’s largest banks. But the proposal faces strong resistance in Congress, where lawmakers have shown little appetite for adding to the prolonged debate on overhauling financial regulations.

The legislation would ban banks that take federally insured deposits from investing in hedge funds or private equity funds and from making trades that are for the benefit of the banks, not their customers, a practice known as proprietary trading.

Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley would probably be the Wall Street firms most affected by the ban, known informally as the Volcker Rule, but they might be able to shed their status as bank-holding companies to avoid some restrictions. The legislation also would ban bank mergers if the merged company would have more than 10 percent of all liabilities in the financial system.

Some senators have said the rule would not have prevented the financial crisis. They said the idea, as outlined by Obama, was vague and difficult to enforce. And representatives of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase said limits on risk-taking could be achieved by other means. -- NEW YORK TIMES