Nov 20, 2008
Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) will become the next chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee after House Democrats voted to replace current Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.).
Waxman won 137-122 in the secret ballot vote.
The dramatic intra-party showdown for the coveted position signals a leftward turn for the Democratic agenda. The outcome was a blow to the seniority system and a victory, at least in perception, for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Though her aides denied it, many saw the hand of Pelosi in Waxman’s challenge for the post, which conveys great power over how the Democratic agenda of President-elect Barack Obama will be implemented.
Waxman is considered more liberal on issues like climate change, energy and business regulation, and potentially more aggressive on healthcare. Dingell, the longest-serving House lawmaker, is close to the auto industry and autoworkers.
Following the Democrats’ election sweep earlier this month, Waxman, currently the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, challenged Dingell for the top spot on the Energy and Commerce panel, which will be involved in all energy legislation and will also play a major role in Obama’s plans to put in place a national healthcare system.
The Democratic Steering and Policy Committee voted 25-22 on Wednesday to endorse Waxman over Dingell and the full Democratic caucus voted on the chairmanship on Thursday morning.