Reyes, a Vietnam veteran and former Border Patrol agent, has been on the committee since 2001, The New York Times reported. He has less seniority than two members Pelosi passed over for the chairmanship, Jane Harman of California and Alcee Hastings of Florida.
For Pelosi, Reyes had one big advantage, his longstanding opposition to President George W. Bush's policies in the Middle East. Unlike Harman, Reyes voted against the resolution authorizing the Iraq War.
"His appreciation for the dangers inherent in the operation of secret activities in a democracy ensures that he will be a zealous protector of the civil liberties that define us as a nation," Pelosi said.
Pelosi and Harman have long been at odds.
Pelosi bypassed Hastings, who was endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, because he was impeached as a federal judge. Hastings was acquitted in a criminal trial on the charges that resulted in his impeachment.