"Update on Waxman vs. Dingell"
From E&E News PM:
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) signaled his plans today to seek the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee from Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), according to Democratic sources on and off Capitol Hill.
Waxman telephoned Dingell this morning to tell him about the challenge, which if successful would have implications for energy and climate change legislation during the first term of President-elect Barack Obama. Waxman, who will be sworn in January to an 18th term, is seen as more aggressive on environmental issues than Dingell, the longest-serving House member and an outspoken proponent of the auto industry.
The prospect of Waxman heading the committee worries some lobbyists who prefer what they see as Dingell’s more industry-friendly approach. “This is a fight for all the marbles,” said one refining industry lobbyist. “If Henry gets this, my god, given the scope of jurisdiction of the Energy and Commerce Committee, all hell will break loose legislatively if Waxman chairs this thing.”
Well, actually, the goal is to prevent Hell and High Water from breaking loose, but what do you expect from an industry lobbyist? The story continues:
Democrats are being forced to confront the Waxman-Dingell dispute as they celebrate big gains from yesterday’s elections, which included Obama’s decisive victory over Arizona Republican John McCain and at least an 18-seat pickup in the House.
Sources tracking the House Energy and Commerce Committee said today it remains unclear just how serious Waxman is about taking Dingell’s gavel away. It is possible Waxman may be pushing Dingell to give a clearer signal of whether he plans to retire in 2010, after his 28th term. But Waxman may also be proceeding under the assumption that Dingell is planning to stay put and that the Michigan Democrat presents a significant obstacle to the policy priorities of the incoming Obama administration.
Along with energy issues, Obama has said that an overhaul of the U.S. health care system also will be a top priority. Both fall under the Energy and Commerce Committee’s jurisdiction.
House Democrats plan organizational meetings later this month as they prepare for the 111th Congress. Under House Democratic Caucus rules, Waxman would bring his challenge before the House Steering and Policy Committee, which includes senior Democratic lawmakers, committee leaders, regional representatives and party leaders who have a larger number of votes than other members. Whoever loses there has the option of making a challenge to the entire House Democratic caucus, which would vote by secret ballot.
Spokesmen for Dingell and Waxman did not return calls for comment.
Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), declined comment on the dispute between the two senior lawmakers. Pelosi in the past has tangled with Dingell on energy and environmental issues, including a fight two years ago over whether her home state should be allowed to implement its own greenhouse gas emission standards for automobiles.
Waxman currently chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which over the last two years has given him a perch to investigate everything from global warming science to the use of steroids in Major League Baseball. The 69-year-old congressman also is ranked second in seniority on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he has played a major role over the last three decades in shaping the nation’s environmental laws.