Waxman Unseats Dingell as House Energy and Commerce Chair

Washington, DC (November 20, 2008)- Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) replaced Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee by a vote of 137-122 in a meeting of the House Democratic Caucus. The transfer of power is likely to lead to accelerated passage of climate legislation. Waxman represents Santa Monica, Beverly Hills and areas of West Los Angeles, and has long been a supporter of clean air legislation. “I went before the caucus and argued we needed a change in leadership and the public was clamoring for the change,” Waxman said.

Many lawmakers and lobbyists consider the Energy and Commerce Committee to be the most influential panel in either house of Congress, one that handles, by some estimates, all or parts of two-thirds of the legislation moving through the House. Three committees in the Senate share jurisdiction over bills relating to energy, environment and commerce, all of which pass through the single House committee.
Mr. Waxman, 69, of California, who mounted a quiet but devastatingly effective two-week campaign against his longtime Democratic colleague, won the chairmanship with a 137-to-122 vote in the Democratic Caucus. The vote was secret, but many allies of Speaker Nancy Pelosi backed Mr. Waxman’s move, and several members said they had voted on the assumption that Ms. Pelosi had tacitly approved.
Mr. Waxman represents Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and well-to-do areas of West Los Angeles. He has long championed clean air legislation and measures to strengthen consumer protections. He supports tougher nursing home regulation, increased federal support for disease research and subsidies for prescription drugs for the poor and the elderly.
Democrats also read the signals coming from the president-elect’s transition office, which this week announced the intention to name Philip Schiliro, a longtime aide to Mr. Waxman, as the White House director of Congressional relations.
The takeover marked the fall of a third long-serving member of Congress in the last two weeks. Senator Ted Stevens, 85, Republican of Alaska, lost his re-election bid after a federal fraud conviction. Senator Robert C. Byrd, 91, Democrat of West Virginia, stepped aside as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.
“Well, this was clearly a change year, and I congratulate my colleague Henry Waxman on his success today,” Dingell said. “I will work closely with him on the issues facing the Energy and Commerce Committee and for a smooth transition.” Dingell represents a suburban Detroit district and has had held the chairmanship since 1981.
Related Resources:
New York Times- Democrats Oust Longtime Leader of House Panel
Free Press Washington- Waxman ousts Dingell for top House chairmanship
Associated Press- Waxman topples Dingell; House Dems go greener