Thrilla in Vanilla’s latest round goes to Waxman

thrilla.jpg E&E News (subs. req’d) has the breaking story on the political pugilistic prizefight to police pollution:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) scored a slim opening round win today in his bid to take the gavel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee from Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).

Waxman captured a majority of support from the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, a group heavily tilted toward allies of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The final tally was 25-22, according to Steering Committee co-Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)

So this was definitely not a knockout, but more of a split decision by the judges. The bad news for Waxman is that he scored a close win in a Pelosi-friendly group that is more liberal than the Democratic caucus as a whole.

To win the chairmanship, Waxman, a 17-term lawmaker from Beverly Hills, still needs a majority vote from the entire House Democratic Caucus. A secret-ballot vote is scheduled for 9 a.m tomorrow among approximately 260 Democrats who will serve in the 111th Congress — and a heavy dose of lobbying from both sides is expected before then.

The prize remains a big one, which is why this is a major prizefight:

The victor will play an important role over the next two years in moving President-elect Barack Obama’s energy, environment and health care agenda.

Here are more details:

At today’s closed-door meeting, both Dingell and Waxman made approximately three-minute presentations highlighting their legislative accomplishments. They also argued they were better positioned to move Obama’s priorities on Capitol Hill.

Waxman declined comment on a range of questions from reporters as he left the closed-door meeting. “We’ll see tomorrow,” he said several times.

Asked how quickly he would move a climate bill if he became chairman, Waxman laughed and said, “And you want details?”

Before the vote, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a member of the Policy and Steering Committee, said she favored Dingell, explaining how the current Democratic leadership structure is tilted toward coastal state lawmakers. “It’s important to represent flyover country,” Kaptur said.

But Waxman backer Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) downplayed the significance of his colleague’s leadership challenge. “We go through this every two years,” he said.

Members of the Policy and Steering Committee include 20 Democratic leaders, including Pelosi, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. Several committee chairmen, a dozen regional representatives and 14 rank-and-file members make up the rest of the exclusive panel.

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