Representative Jane Harman of California intends to resign her U.S. House seat to become president and director of the Washington-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Democratic aide said.
Harman, a Democrat who has focused on defense and intelligence policy, told House Democratic leaders she would resign once the Wilson Center’s board names her head of the nonpartisan research organization, said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
In a letter to constituents today, Harman said she was “in discussions” with the center to become its head and would resign her congressional seat if she gets the job.
“A decision is imminent,” Harman said in the letter.
Center spokeswoman Sharon A. McCarter said in an e-mail that the board is scheduled to meet tomorrow to ‘make a decision” on a new head and “we will issue an announcement when that decision is made.”
Harman, 65, would succeed Lee Hamilton, a onetime Democratic House member from Indiana who was head of the Foreign Affairs Committee. Hamilton, 79, also was vice chairman of the Sept. 11 Commission that looked into the terrorist assault and proposed steps to prevent a recurrence.
In her statement, Harman said if she is named Hamilton’s successor, “I would remain in Congress for some weeks and do everything possible to ensure an orderly transition to whomever is elected” to her seat.
Harman previously served as the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Intelligence Committee. Following the 2006 election in which Democrats ended 12 years of Republican control of the chamber, she was passed over to head the intelligence panel by then-incoming House Speaker by Nancy Pelosi, also of California. Pelosi picked Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas for the chairmanship.
Reyes was a critic of then-President George W. Bush’s Iraq War policy. Harman had split with some Democrats, including Pelosi, who favored a congressionally set timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops of Iraq. Harman favored a timetable established by U.S. military field commanders.
Harman chaired the intelligence subcommittee of the House Homeland Security panel during the 2009-2010 congressional session. Republicans regained control of the House in the 2010 elections.
She was first elected to Congress in 1992, representing a suburban Los Angeles district. She served three terms before unsuccessfully seeking the Democratic nomination for California’s governor in 1998. She was again elected to the House in 2000.
Harman is married to Sidney Harman, the founder of Harman International Industries Inc. and owner of Newsweek magazine, which recently merged with the Daily Beast news website.