Breaking News: Waxman defeats Dingell

Ding Dong the Dingell is gone! Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will take the gavel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee in January.

This is huge for those who’ll want strong action on both climate change and clean energy and energy independence (and health care). Heck, it’s the second best piece of news on global warming this month!

I’m told the vote was 137–122. I will post updates as they come.

UPDATE 1: The NYT piece is now up: “Longtime Head of House Energy Panel Is Ousted.”

UPDATE 2: The E&E Daily piece (subs. req’d) is below:

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) is the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Waxman ousted longtime Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.), 137–122, in a secret ballot vote of the entire House Democratic Caucus today.

With Waxman’s victory, many expect the Beverly Hills Democrat to bring a liberal voice to the podium as he crafts energy and environmental legislation for the incoming Obama administration.

Waxman has not given many details of his proposed agenda, but a clear look at his record suggests he will pursue aggressive pollution cleanup for all industrial sectors, as well as some of the most aggressive limits for U.S. business as it embarks on a first-ever mandatory program to curb heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 2006, Waxman has made headlines as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has given him a perch to investigate the Bush administration’s policies on everything from Iraq and climate change to the use of steroids in Major League Baseball.

Some of Waxman’s biggest legislative accomplishments on the environment stretch back to before Republicans won control of Congress in 1994. He fought Dingell and the Reagan administration in the 1980s over efforts to weaken automobile emission standards. And during the 1990 Clean Air Act amendments debate, Waxman clashed with Dingell while serving as chair of the Health and Environment Subcommittee.

Waxman’s first order of business may be to address the hurt feelings within the divided caucus.

Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.), whose status as chairman of the Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee is now in doubt, said he was bothered by Waxman’s challenge. “This whole challenge bothered me but I won’t be specific about anything,” he told reporters.

“I think it was highly inappropriate, there was no obvious reason for it other than the desire for another person to chair the committee,” Boucher said. “There was no real substantive reason.”

Aides to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stressed they had not played favorites or encouraged the move, but numerous pieces of tangential evidence suggested they would prefer Waxman over Dingell. Obama last weekend named longtime Waxman staffer Phil Schiliro as his top liaison to Congress. And Pelosi has fought countless times with Dingell over environmental issues, at one point backing his opponent in a Democratic primary.

At least one Democratic leader did speak up for Dingell’s cause: House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). While speaking highly of Waxman at yesterday’s Steering and Policy Committee meeting, Hoyer expressed concerns about the precedent of removing a sitting chairman who was a loyal Democrat and an able performer, a Democratic aide said.

The Steering and Policy Committee endorsed Waxman by a 25–22 vote yesterday.

For Dingell, 82, the vote marks the end of Dingell’s 28 years as the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, although he will have the title of chairman emeritus. Supporters of the congressman from the auto industrial hub of Dearborn, Mich., stressed his long list of accomplishments in Congress, as well as a renewed commitment to take on a broad array of President-elect Barack Obama’s priorities, including global warming.

His public list of supporters included more than a dozen Blue Dog Democrats, as well as members of the Congressional Black Caucus, New Democratic coalition and Democratic committee leaders.

Members who spoke on Dingell’s behalf at the Democratic caucus meeting included Reps. John Lewis of Georgia, Diana DeGette of Colorado, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin of South Dakota and Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, according to Boucher. Waxman spoke on his own behalf for about five minutes.