In what can only be described as a bold challenge, and an even more surprising upset, Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) today toppled the Dean of the House of Representatives, fellow Democrat, John Dingell (D-Detroit), for chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. The Committee’s jurisdiction is expansive, including health care, environment and energy, all areas where President-elect Obama is likely to seek comprehensive legislation early in his first term.
Waxman is best remembered recently for his numerous hearings and oversight investigations of the Bush administration, most notably on issues pertaining to Iraq, and the faulty intelligence used as a precursor to the U.S. invasion. For most of his life, John Dingell has served as the auto industry’s representative in Washington, fighting passionately for the interests and concerns of both automakers and their workers. During much of this time he also opposed meaningful increases in automobile fuel efficiency standards. 2007’s spike in crude oil, rising concerns over global warming and national security considerations proved too much for Dingell and the auto industry to beat back from their Alamo-like position, and modest mileage improvements, 35 miles per gallon, fleet-wide, by 2020, were imposed.
Given today’s results, it’s clear that many Democrats weren’t looking forward to another round vs. John Dingell and the Big Three. The U.S. transportation sector accounts for almost 30 percent of annual carbon dioxide emissions, and many climate change and renewable energy advocates are confident that Henry Waxman will wield a more progressive gavel over alternative energy and emissions reduction legislation.