Democrats pick new head of key US Congress panel
Washington: A US lawmaker close to organised labour and sharply critical of China and South Korea on trade matters announced on Thursday he will head a powerful US House panel with oversight on taxes and trade.
Democratic Representative Sandy Levin said in a statement he will lead the House Ways and Means Committee while its chairman, Democratic Representative Charlie Rangel, takes a leave of absence during an ethics probe.
"The Ways and Means Committee plays a vital role on critical issues facing American families, including, job creation, economic development, and health care. I look forward to moving vigorously on this agenda," said Levin.
Rangel announced at a hastily called press conference on Wednesday that he was temporarily stepping down from his chairmanship pending the results of an ethics investigation.
Rangel, who was publicly admonished by the House ethics committee last week for taking corporate-funded travel, said he did not want to become a distraction, ahead of the November mid-term elections to decide control of Congress.
Republicans had been calling on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for months to dump Rangel, who has served in the House for nearly four decades.
Rangel said he was taking his leave "in view of the fact that my chairmanship is bringing so much attention to the press and in order to avoid my colleagues having to defend me during their elections."
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