The one House race left to watch

November 12th, 2008

Posted by: admin

Now that the election is over there’s one House race left to watch: Dingell v. Waxman.

John Dingell is the Ann Arbor/Detroit Representative who chairs the Energy and Commerce Committee.  E&C is the key House committee of jurisdiction for climate policy and Dingell has been unabashed in his reluctance to move climate policy forward.   Considering the aggressive moves by other Congressional Dems – particularly Bingaman, Boxer and Markey — on trying to move the policy conversation forward within the Democratic caucus in advance of January 2009, Dingell has been the bottleneck to movement.

Now, the always-aggressive Henry Waxman, #2 on the E&C committee, has started a push to wrest the gavel from Dingell.  The differences in philosophy and approach between the two men are quite clear, especially on climate.  Dingell has been upfront about protecting the auto industry at all costs and being reluctant on carbon regulations (see for example), while Waxman is clearly itching to move forward on carbon caps.

The politics behind this will be fascinating as it is no secret that many Dems, including Ms. Pelosi, would like to see Dingell relinquish control of the committee (and the attendant control it will have over climate policy in the coming term, although that’s not the only reason).  Pelosi tried to go around Dingell in 2006 by creating an ad hoc committee on climate change (chaired by Markey), only to see Dingell win a fight that ensured the ad hoc commitee would have no legislation-writing authority.  Apparently Dingell is taking the current challenge so seriously that he’s formed a “whip team” to help him fight off Waxman.  But Waxman has apparently been planning this coup for a while, contributing heavily to incoming freshmen Dems.

You can bet that savvy watchers of climate policy are watching this “race” more closely than anything else in D.C. right now.  Ultimately, the ramifications of this fight will have serious and long-lasting implications for the direction and scope of the country’s first real foray into carbon regulations (whether they happen sooner or later).

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