Sander Levin: Meet Charlie Rangel's Replacement

The selection of Sander Levin as the new (and ostensibly temporary, though that remains to be seen) chair of the House Ways and Means Committee -- replacing embattled New York Rep. Charles Rangel (and, after a daylong stint, combative California Rep. Pete Stark) -- has Americans wondering: So who's Sander Levin?

Here's a primer: "Sandy" Levin, who is 78 years old, is the older brother of Carl Levin, the Michigan senator and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman. He has been in the House since 1982 -- this is his 14th term -- and as chair of the Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee has developed a reputation as an expert on trade, a good reputation to have when you represent a district outside Detroit.

"Congressman Levin is known as a leader on trade issues -- seeking ways to use trade policy to shape globalization," his bio says. "He believes that U.S. businesses and workers can compete in the global economy if the playing field is level. He is fighting to include worker rights and environmental standards in trade agreements. To protect U.S. jobs, he has persistently challenged unfair trade practices and worked to eliminate barriers to U.S. exports."

Translation: Levin is an organized labor ally, and his ascention is good news for unions.

Levin ran for Michigan governor twice in the 1970s and served in the Michigan State Senate before that. Last summer, amid the health care town hall frenzy, Levin released a video responding to questions from constituents. Check it out above to get a taste of the Detroit native's style.

Stark was next in line for the chairmanship, which Rangel abdicated after being admonished by the House ethics committee for one of his many alleged transgressions involving fundraising and finances. Should the ethics committee clear Rangel of the other issues he is being investigated for -- which isn't as far-fetched proposition as you might think -- he will ostensibly get his gavel back.

Stark, the chair of the Ways and Means subcommittee on health and thus (on paper) an ideal replacement for Rangel at the moment, was passed over for the chairmanship for a couple reasons. First off, the liberal lawmaker is suffering from an undisclosed illness that has caused him to miss more than 250 votes. Second, he has a "history of volatile comments" -- he was reportedly belligerent toward Office of Congressional Ethics investigators probing his application for a homestead tax exemption and in 2007 accused Republicans of sending soldiers to Iraq "to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement." He has also called Republicans "wimps" and "whores." (More here.)