Democrats have decided on a new chairman to replace Rep. Charlie Rangel atop the powerful Ways and Means Committee: Sander Levin, a 14-term congressman from Michigan.

There are two wrinkles here, as Marc pointed out yesterday: Levin was not the successor preferred by Rangel, who wanted Richard Neal, a less-senior (11 terms) lawmaker from Massachusetts. Installing Neal would have required the Democratic caucus to ruffle the feathers of four Democrats above him on the seniority totem pole.

But nor is Levin next in line, seniority-wise: he was actually second in line behind Rangel, behind California Rep. Pete Stark, who is serving his 19th term in Congress but typically goes his own way.

Levin comes from a strong state for labor, and many of the big unions are donors--though his top two contributors are corporations: Boeing and Honeywell. Given his labor ties, Levin's time as chairman could mean a progressive vision of taxes from the House's top tax man.

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