John Dingell (D-MI) and Henry Waxman (D-CA)
According to a report in National Journal’s CongressDaily, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) has sufficient votes in the Democratic caucus to win a vote to replace Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Waxman announced his intent to take the chairmanship yesterday, telling reporters, “I think I have a good chance of winning.”
A likely measure of the depth of Waxman’s support is last month’s statement of climate principles, signed by 152 members, or two-thirds of the Democratic caucus, on October 2. The letter, led by Waxman, Ed Markey (D-MA), and Jay Inslee (D-WA), details much stronger standards than were found in the draft legislation Dingell produced the following week.
The National Journal reports:
Dingell is expected to win support from Majority Leader Hoyer, Midwestern Democrats, members of the Congressional Black Caucus — who typically back the seniority — and Blue Dog Coalition members.
The Blue Dogs are self-identified “conservative Democrats,” many of whom disproportionately supported Bush’s agenda. Dingell, it should be noted, is not a Blue Dog and is a strongly progressive voice on many issues.
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA), the coal-country chairman of the Energy & Commerce subcommittee that controls greenhouse pollution legislation, echoed the conservative mantra that this election provided no mandate for change. Supporting Dingell, Boucher warned that it would be problematic “if the first action of the new majority … is a dramatic move to the left.”
However, this is not an ideological battle. For example, Waxman has secured the support of senior Blue Dog Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), who told reporters he is “on Henry’s whip team.” Both Waxman and Dingell have made economic justice and public health central planks of their careers. Their differences are strategic, not ideological. Dingell’s work on climate change has emphasized the approach of protecting industry from economic harm, whereas Waxman believes that robust economic health will come from the transition to a clean energy economy.
UPDATE: National Journal’s Dan Friedman has updated his report with details of a call with Dingell supporters who “forcefully rejected” the claim Waxman has sufficient support to oust Dingell:
“These claims that Mr. Waxman has the votes are just not true,” said Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich. “There is no doubt in my mind at the end of the day that Chairman Dingell will still be referred to as Chairman Dingell.” Stupak and Reps. John Barrow, D-Ga., and Mike Doyle, D-Pa. said Waxman has not made a clear case for why he should replace Dingell. “I asked [Waxman] quite pointedly what his basis for challenging Mr. Dingell was,” Doyle said. “He was unable to give me a single reason why he thought Mr. Dingell shouldn’t be chairman other than the fact that he [Waxman] would be a better chairman.”