WAXMAN ‘DA MAN (TO CHAIR HOUSE ENERGY COMMITTEE)
Congressman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif) wresting of the power-loaded House Commerce and Energy Committee Chairmanship from Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich) underscores the profundity of the changing of the guard in the D.C. halls of power.
The Energy and Commerce Committee controls a wide spectrum of issues, from consumer protection and regulation of energy resources to global warming, conservation, health and auto emissions. It's Chair chooses the issues and bills that go to the House floor for debate and voting.
Dingell, a Congressman since replacing his father in the House in 1955 and Democratic leader of the Energy and Commerce committee for 12 years, is a member of the Old Guard, strongly influenced by the Detroit auto industry whose workers are his constituents and whose owners are his funders.
Waxman and many others contend Dingell’s defense of Detroit blocked auto safety, mileage and emissions standards and contributed to the companies’ present precarious position.
Dingell was once thought a progressive for his positions on civil rights and national health care. His national health care proposal, however, was drafted half-a-century ago and differs from the Obama-backed plan.
Waxman, a liberal activist from California, has close ties to the incoming administration. Philip Schiliro, Waxman’s chief of staff, was recentlty appointed the new White House director of Congressional relations.
Unnamed aide to a Waxman supporter: “That’s a direct line to the White House…Don’t underestimate that.”
The decisive votes for Waxman came from the rising new House power base, the large and powerful California delegation and the most recently-elected of the Democratic members of the House.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) was officially neutral in the power struggle between Waxman and Dingell but led a standing ovation for Waxman’s speech to the Democratic caucus preceding the vote to decide the Chairmanship.
In this amazing 3 minutes, Chairman Waxman passionately goes after the stonewalling Bush EPA head. Republican Rep. Issa tries to protect President Bush’s man. Chairman Waxman wants the EPA head to answer and threatens to throw Issa out of the room for blocking questioning. From Veracifier via YouTube.
Behind House Struggle, Long and Tangled Roots
John M. Broder and Carl Hulse, November 22, 2008 (NY Times)
House panel backs Waxman as energy chairman
Thomas Ferraro and Deborah Zabarenko (w/Cynthia Osterman), November 19, 2008 (Reuters via Yahoo News)
Congressman Henry Waxman’s (D-Calif); Congressman John Dingell (D-Mich); Congressman Steny Hoyer (D-Md), House Whip; Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif); President-elect Barack Obama
By a vote of 137 to 122, the House of Representatives’ Democratic Caucus chose Waxman to replace Dingell as Chairman of the House Commerce and Energy Committee.
The House Energy and Commerce Committee controls a lot of turf. (click to enlarge)
- The vote came November 21.
- Congressmen Dingell and Waxman refused Congressman Hoyer’s compromise offer to hold the Chairmanship for 2 more years and voluntarily hand over the gavel.
- Dingell has been the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee for 28 years.
The change profoundly influences President-elect Obama’s ability to put his New Energy agenda before Congress uncompromised.
- Waxman has fought Dingell over auto standards since the 1980s.
- Dingell’s support came from moderate Democrats, conservative Blue Dogs, much of the Black Caucus and representatives of districts with auto-dependent constituencies.
- Waxman’s campaign for the gavel was widely seen as more aggressive and better organized than Dingell’s effort to retain it.
- Officially neutral, both Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) gave signals interpreted as support for Waxman.
- Ms. Pelosi contributed to the 2002 campaign of a Dingell opponent in Michigan.
- Dingell based his candidacy on his seniority and on his strong civil rights record in the 1960s.
- Waxman argued that the Obama election was a call for change.
- After the vote, Pelosi called Dingell with conciliatory offers but her call was not returned.
Based on this historical graphic from the NY Times, the President-elect is making good progress at assembling his team. (click to enlarge)
- Representative Mike Doyle (D- Penn), Rust Belt Democrat: “One member who voted against him told me if Dingell had said, ‘Give me two years, and I will happily hand the gavel to Henry Waxman,’ he probably would have won…You bumped into a lot of freshmen who said Mr. Waxman was very good to them…The freshman and sophomore class didn’t know John or had never served with him. It’s a sad ending for someone who’s given so much of his life to the Democratic Party, the Congress and the country. He deserved better.”
- Congressman Bruce Braley (D- Iowa), a Waxman supporter: “I certainly did what I could to let them know that here was a clear choice…”