Democrats battle for control of the House Energy Committee

Tuesday’s election brought high times for Democrats. Not only did Obama win the presidency, but Dems secured a larger majority in both the House and the Senate—we’re guessing the bubbly flowed like the Mighty Mississippi these past few days. But just as those champagne-induced headaches were starting to wear off, there’s already tension within the party.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) wants to take over as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the committee that is expected to be highly involved in issues like climate change legislation, energy, and health care. There’s just one problem: Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.) currently holds the position, and he is not about to give it up without a fight.

From today’s Los Angeles Times:

The outcome of the fight could affect whether action on Obama’s energy agenda will be tilted toward the interests of Rust Belt industrial Democrats or more aggressive antipollution efforts that California has spearheaded.


It opens divisions among triumphant Democrats just as they come off a landmark election that put Obama in the White House and expanded the party’s majorities in the House and Senate—and it is a window into how power struggles among Democrats may intensify now that there is so much more power to wield.

If Waxman did steal the throne from Dingell, it would be a huge coup for environmentalists: Dingell is a longtime support of the auto industry, and he’s fought hard against setting stricter fuel economy standards and pollution laws. Waxman, on the other hand, has sought to establish tougher regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

More from the LA Times:

As chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Waxman has been a thorn in the Bush administration’s side with frequent hearing and reports critical of its performance. But now that a Democrat will be in the White House, that oversight role may not be as appealing to Waxman as the chairman of the energy and commerce committee, which has jurisdiction over many issues important to the new administration.


“In large measure, our success as a Democratic caucus will depend on how the commerce committee performs,” Waxman said in a letter to Democrats announcing his plans.

But despite Waxman’s support from environmental groups, taking over the title of chairman won’t be easy: The Democratic caucus votes on committee chair candidates, but Dingell has seniority on his side.

It will be interesting to see who takes over crucial environmental positions like chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee and head of the EPA, as these honors are currently held by Bush’s cronies. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Obama will have no problem establishing a Green Dream Team.