- WEB EXCLUSIVE
- PE COFFEEHAUS
UPDATE – On Thursday, Nov. 20, the Democratic Caucus decided to uphold the decision by members of the planning committee to replace John Dingell with Henry Waxman. --ed
NOV. 18, 2008: A political showdown – to be decided this afternoon or Thursday – between two prominent Democrats in the House of Representatives could have major effects on U.S. energy and environmental policy.
U.S. Reps. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., have widely differing views on environmental policy, but after a vote today in the House steering committee, only one of them could be chosen to head the powerful chairmanship of Energy & Commerce. However, a final determination is not likely to be made until Thursday, when the issue is put before the entire Democratic Caucus.
The committee directs Congress' policies on environmental issues. Its chairman has the power to shape legislation on a broad range of issues. The committee overseas several important subcommittees, including Energy & Air Quality, Environment & Hazardous Materials, and Oversight and Investigations. Most political analysts expect the 111th Congress to pass important legislation on renewable energy, and greenhouse gas and mercury control, subjects that Waxman and Dingell do not entirely agree on.
The more conservative Dingell is the incumbent, with strong home ties to the automotive industry, and would thus be expected to shape more moderate policies, particularly on the key issue of CO2 control. Waxman represents the strongly environmental 30th Congressional District of California, which includes West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Malibu. He is the key sponsor of the Safe Climate Act of 2007 (see link below), which proposes aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The bill is currently being held up in committee by Dingell.
The two Democrats have respect for each other, and we the two key Representatives in drafting the 1990 amendments to the Clean Air Act. They've also worked together in pressing the White House for the names of Vice President Cheney's suspect energy task force.
"Dingell, who now uses a cane, is a holdover from the era when chairmen ruled Congress with an iron fist," noted Sarah Abruzzese and Ryan Grim in an article for Politico (see link). "He has rallied support from conservative Blue Dogs and influential members of the Congressional Black Caucus eager to uphold the seniority system that has controlled power in the Democratic Caucus for more than a century."
Abruzzee and Grim also called Waxman "a wily, energetic reformer," with a "natural base among liberals." He is currently the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
"Detroit wants Dingell to win; Waxman has fought for more clean air regulation for 30 years," noted political blogger Marc Ambinder. "There's already talk of behind-the-scenes negotiations: maybe Dingell will stay put for another year and then step down. Waxman, and many Democratic colleagues, won't have that."