Rep. Sander Levin, D-Mich., has been chosen as acting chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, a day after Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., took a leave of absence from the leadership of the powerful tax-writing committee.

Rangel stepped down from the post under the cloud of ongoing investigations by the House Committee on Standards of Professional Conduct (see Rangel Steps Down as Ways and Means Chair). Last week he was admonished by the ethics committee for not fully disclosing the names of companies that paid for him to attend conferences they sponsored in the Caribbean.

Levin was a surprise choice for leading the committee. Next in line in terms of seniority was Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. However, Stark has an undisclosed illness that has prevented him from participating in more than 250 votes in the past 13 months, and he reportedly has a history of making controversial remarks.

Levin is known for being strongly pro-labor and anti-free trade. Besides writing tax laws, the Ways and Means Committee is involved with trade issues.

“The Ways and Means Committee plays a vital role on critical issues facing American families, including, job creation, economic development and health care,” Levin said in a statement.  “I look forward to moving vigorously on this agenda. That means working collaboratively with Democrats on the Committee and the entire caucus, with congressional leadership and the Obama administration, and undertaking discussions with Republicans in order to move our nation forward.”

Levin, 79, is the elder brother of 75-year-old Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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