WASHINGTON With US Representative Charlie 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 a long shot, according to Democratic staffers.
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. In order for Neal to become chairman, the Democrats would have to break from choosing their chairman based on seniority.
Stark, who is 78 and battling health problems, said today he would accept the position on a temporary basis. After the midterm elections, a permanent successor would be chosen should Rangel not return to his post.
If Neal, who has been considered among potential candidates to take over as chairman, is eventually 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 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 he's still considered too young at this time.
Rangel stepped down temporarily as chairman today after the House ethics committee accused Rangel of violating House gift rules.
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Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.