Breaking: Stark out, Levin in for Ways and Means chair; Update: "Lively discussions"?

Gee — was it something we said?

Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.) will take the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee and Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) will step aside, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the Democratic Caucus on Thursday morning, sources in attendance said.

Stark, the No. 2 Democrat on the panel, has been serving as acting chairman since Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) surrendered the gavel Wednesday, but Democrats on the committee resisted the idea.

The AP notes Levin’s self-proclaimed “close relationship with Charlie” Rangel:

Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, D-Calif., held the acting chairmanship for a day under House rules, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a meeting of all House Democrats Thursday that Levin was the choice to run the committee.

He will serve until Rangel’s ethics case is resolved or a new Congress convenes next year. Stark will remain chairman of the Ways and Means health subcommittee.

Levin told reporters: “I think you know my close relationship with Charlie. At this point, I’m acting chairman.”

Stark has a long history of strange behavior and partisan nuttiness.  Levin’s relationship with Rangel has little to do with the switch, but in any case, it won’t matter much.  The real power on Ways and Means is Nancy Pelosi, exercised through her lieutenant Rep. Chris van Hollen.  Levin will just provide the public face of that leadership.

Update: Via the Boss Emeritus, the switch has sparked “lively” discussions among House Democrats:

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who serves on the panel and in leadership as Assistant to the Speaker, acknowledged there had been “lively discussions” on Wednesday about the initial decision to have Stark bcome acting chairman.

The shuffling of chairmen is sure to raise questions about how Pelosi handled the issue. …

Stark was the next in line for the post in terms of seniority, but some panel members recoiled at the idea of his leading the committee. Stark is known for making controversial and eccentric remarks, and in 2007 he apologized on the House floor for comments about President George W. Bush and the Iraq War.

Lively?  I’d bet they were … and still are.