Tag Archives: House Energy Committee

Chairman Waxman

I guess Henry Waxman, a key ally to Nancy Pelosi, wouldn’t have made the move to unseat John Dingell if he didn’t count the votes.

Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.) has ousted Energy and Commerce Chairman John Dingell (Mich.), as Democratic lawmakers voted 137-122 Thursday morning to hand the gavel of the powerhouse panel to its second-ranking member.

This, more than anything, could be the biggest change in the federal government in 2009 and beyond.  Waxman’s Safe Climate Act sets the targets needed to mitigate the worst effects of global warming.  It now becomes the working document in the House for anti-global warming legislation.  And his constituency doesn’t include a major polluting industry.

From a policy standpoint, it’s a major progressive victory.  

Waxman Wins Key Test Vote For Chair Of House Energy Committee

This is a very big deal.  Henry Waxman has been nominated by the House’s Steering Committee to be the head of the House panel on Energy and Commerce, ahead of longtime chair John Dingell.  The implications for such a change would be huge, but it’s not over yet.

The House Democratic Steering Committee has nominated Henry A. Waxman to be chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee next year – a stinging rebuke of the sitting chairman, John D. Dingell .

Waxman won a 25-22 vote over Dingell in a closed-door meeting Wednesday by the Steering panel. Because Dingell got more than 13 votes in the secret balloting, he can be nominated to run against Waxman at Thursday’s Democratic Caucus meeting, at which all of the Democrats elected to the 111th Congress are eligible to vote.

That means we have one day to whip our Congresspeople on this vote.  Waxman, who wrote the Clean Air Act and who has an understanding of what is needed to be done on global warming and the post-carbon future, would make a great chairman, as opposed to the Dingellsaurus, who is still trying to protect the auto industry from moving into the 21st century, even as the verdict on their approach is defined by their trudging to Capitol Hill for a bailout.  A majority of the caucus has signed a letter to Nancy Pelosi asking for greater efforts to combat climate change.  Waxman at Energy is a key to that happening.  We must eliminate this roadblock.

Marc Ambinder sets the scene (this was written before today’s vote)

Waxman wants the job for obvious reasons: the committee will be the most powerful in the new Congress, one that’ll deal with health care and energy legislation. (Ways and Means? Pleghghgh.)  A lot of impatient liberal Democrats want to see Dingell go; he is too old, too blinkered in his thinking and too at odds with the party on energy, they say; just as many, it seems, want him to say, including some influential members of the leadership, even if for reasons of preserving the integrity of the seniority system.

Senior Democratic aides expect that the vote will go to the full caucus; all the loser of the steering committee vote has to do is present a letter with 35 House members.  The full vote would be Thursday via secret ballot.

Lots of members of Congress put themselves in the position of someone like Dingell, who earned his chairmanship with seniority, and they don’t want to see him pushed out because they wouldn’t want it to happen to them.  That’s the kind of institutional thinking that must be vanquished, as it restricts change.  The enviro groups are backing away from this fight because they don’t want to feel Dingell’s wrath if he wins.  There is nobody else left to step in but us.  I was skeptical that House Democrats would be pushed in the direction of progress, but with Waxman’s former chief of staff, Phil Schiliro, in the Obama White House, some pressure may be coming down from the top.  It’s in all of our interests to have Henry Waxman atop this committee.

Call Congress and tell them you want to see a committee chair with bold ideas on energy as the head of the Energy Committee.  If you want some extra incentive, read the smugness of the Blue Dogs who are fighting for their roadblock:

Dingell’s supporters said they are not worried by the vote of the Steering panel, which they say is stocked with left-leaning members who do not represent the broader makeup of Democratic caucus.

“If you look at the makeup of that committee in terms of geography and political leanings, this is not the same dynamic as our whole caucus,” said Jim Matheson , D-Utah, who is part of a team working the phones for Dingell, D-Mich.

In particular, if your member is in the Congressional Black Caucus or the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, both of which are supporting Dingell, ask them if they want their constituents to breathe clean air in the future.

Waxman Fight For Energy Committee Looking Grim

That’s if you believe Tim Fernholz, who talked to a couple people in the know.

2. At least two people who would know (blind quotes suck but that’s the way of the world) don’t expect the Waxman challenge to Dingell at the Energy committee to get anywhere, in part because the last two classes of new representatives are more conservative on the whole than other members and will support the incumbent. The leadership hopes that it won’t come to a vote, because Waxman, who is more closely identified with Pelosi (who isn’t taking a position on the challenge) will drop out when he realizes he doesn’t have the votes.

I want to push back on the idea that the most recent classes of Reps. are all conservative, because while that is ossified conventional wisdom inside the Beltway it’s simply not true.  Alan Grayson is not conservative.  Tom Perriello is not conservative.  Larry Kissell is not conservative.  In fact, in this cycle the four Democrats who lost Congressional elections were all deeply conservative – Tim Mahoney, Nick Lampson, Don Cazayoux and Nancy Boyda.  

This isn’t totally about right-left, it’s about those in the status quo who want to protect the seniority system in the event that they stick around Congress look enough to secure a plum post.  That’s why you have liberals in the Congressional Black Caucus like John Lewis pushing for Dingell to stay in his chairmanship.  Dingell is trying to sucker new members by saying he is good on health care, but of course that’s not totally true.

But Dingell is good on health care.  Well, by good, I mean he has pushed ‘single-payer’ for literally decades, while preventing action on drug prices and appointing most of the members of the Energy and Commerce Committee that killed Clinton’s health care plan, because they were reliable pro-auto industry votes on other issues Dingell prioritized (there aren’t a lot of single payer pro-polluting members out there).  But health care is all Dingell has, so he’s emphasizing his willingness to work on health care with Obama in return for keeping his chairmanship of the enormously powerful Energy and Commerce Committee.

With the Senate appearing to take the lead on health care anyway, and Waxman just as solid on the issue, this is an irrelevant argument.  What should be far more central to the debate is this:

The California economy loses about $28 billion annually due to premature deaths and illnesses linked to ozone and particulates spewed from hundreds of locations in the South Coast and San Joaquin air basins, according to findings released Wednesday by a Cal State Fullerton research team.

Most of those costs, about $25 billion, are connected to roughly 3,000 smog-related deaths each year, but additional factors include work and school absences, emergency room visits, and asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses, said team leader Jane Hall, a professor of economics and co-director of the university’s Institute for Economics and Environment Studies.

The decades of shameless defense of a heavily polluting auto industry should be grounds for Dingell’s resignation, not just for booting him from this key committee (especially because it’s resulted in the car companies being broke and looking for a government handout).  But it’s awful hard to impact an insider caucus battle with anything resembling reason.

However, we must keep trying.  Call Congress and tell them you’d rather have someone concerned about catastrophic climate change in charge of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, instead of someone who uses it as a pretext to keep his failing auto industry executive buddies happy.

Post-Election Comings And Goings For LA-Area Lawmakers

A couple weeks ago I wrote about three looming battles that we had to think about after the election.  Two of them have already fizzled.  The open primary ballot initiative filed with the state has been withdrawn.  That’s probably because the Governor wanted to present it himself, so we’ll see where that goes, and a lot of it might have to do with whether or not Prop. 11 actually passes.  Second, Bush Republican and rich developer Rick Caruso decided against running for Mayor of Los Angeles against Antonio Villaraigosa.  There is now no credible candidate running against the incumbent.  Caruso may figure that Villaraigosa is primed for bigger and better things (he’s in Washington today with President-Elect Obama’s council of economic advisers), and if Villaraigosa vacates the seat he’d have a better shot of capturing it.

However, there are a couple other looming battles that are out there.  First, Jane Harman, Congresswoman from the 36th Congressional District, is in line for a top intelligence post with the Obama Administration, and the odds are extremely likely that she’d take it.  Laura Rozen has a profile here.  After a tough primary against Marcy Winograd in 2006, Harman has been a moderately better vote in Congress, but this represents a real opportunity to put a progressive in that seat.  Winograd has recently moved into the district, and would certainly be my first choice if it comes open (or if it doesn’t – Harman voted for the FISA bill this year).

The other major news is that Henry Waxman, my Congressman, is looking to oust John Dingell from his post atop the Energy and Commerce Committee.  This is a long time coming, and I don’t think Waxman would go for it without the support of the Speaker.  The Dingellsaurus, while a decent liberal on most issues (and also a former representative of mine in Ann Arbor, MI), has blocked progress on climate change and modernizing the auto industry for years.  We were finally able to get a modest increase in CAFE standards last year, but Waxman, who wrote the Clean Air Act of 1990, would obviously be a major step up.  And with the auto industry on life support and asking for handouts as a result of the old ways of doing business, it’s clearly time for a Democratic committee chair who isn’t protecting their interests at the expense of the planet.  Waxman’s “Safe Climate Act” introduced last year would mandate a cut in greenhouse gases of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.  That’s exactly the right attitude from the committee chair, and with energy issues obviously so crucial in an Obama Administration, we need someone in that post who recognizes the scope of the problem.  It should also be clear that the committee has likely jurisdiction over health care reform.  

Grist has a lot more on this story.