Henry Waxman successfully took over the chairmanship of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce from John Dingell. The vote was fairly close, 137-122, demonstrating the divisions between moderates and liberals in the caucus. To get an idea of what this means, let’s look at the jurisdiction of the committee:

Biomedical research and development. Consumer affairs and consumer protection. Health and health facilities (except health care supported by payroll deductions). Interstate energy compacts. Interstate and foreign commerce generally. Exploration, production, storage, supply, marketing, pricing, and regulation of energy resources, including all fossil fuels, solar energy, and other unconventional or renewable energy resources. Conservation of energy resources. Energy information generally. The generation and marketing of power (except by federally chartered or Federal regional power marketing authorities); reliability and interstate transmission of, and ratemaking for, all power; and siting of generation facilities (except the installation of interconnections between Government waterpower projects). General management of the Department of Energy and management and all functions of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. National energy policy generally. Public health and quarantine. Regulation of the domestic nuclear energy industry, including regulation of research and development reactors and nuclear regulatory research. Regulation of interstate and foreign communications. Travel and tourism. The committee shall have the same jurisdiction with respect to regulation of nuclear facilities and of use of nuclear energy as it has with respect to regulation of nonnuclear facilities and of use of nonnuclear energy.

Waxman was endorsed for reelection by environmental groups like the Sierra Club, while John Dingell was not. Dingell’s reputation is as a fierce advocate for the Detroit automakers, while Waxman’s reputation is as a fierce advocate for cleaner air and water. Waxman’s coup provides smoother sailing for Obama’s green infrastructure agenda, which is probably why the effort was launched (with Pelosi’s tacit support) and why it succeeded. Roll Call reported that the freshman class planned on voting roughly 18-3 in favor of Waxman, which tells us a little about their sensibilities on environmental issues and Blue Doggery in general. When you consider that the two Michigan freshmen came out openly for Dingell, it becomes obvious that the freshman class was nearly unanimous in supporting the liberal over the moderate. That’s doubly surprising when you consider that we elected two congressmen from Alabama, one from Idaho, and another from North Carolina.

On a sad note, John Dingell, who is serving his 27th term in Congress, has introduced a universal health care bill in every Congress since 1956. Now, at the very moment when his lifelong dream is going to be fulfilled, he gets kicked out of the chair that will mark-up the legislation. I feel badly about that.

The move by Waxman means that he will relinquish his chairmanship of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. It will most likely be taken over by Edolphus Towns of Brooklyn. Rep. Towns is one of three members of the Congressional Black Caucus (along with Al Wynn of Maryland and William ‘Freezer Cash’ Jefferson of Louisiana) that progressives have tried to primary out of the party. Unfortunately, Reps. Towns and Jefferson easily retained their seats. It remains to be seen how aggressive Chairman Towns will be in investigating the Bush years, but he will surely be better than Chairman Lieberman on the Senate side.

All good news comes with bad. Ted Stevens lost his senate seat after being convicted of seven felonies. Today the Senate gave him a standing ovation and praised his career. There is still work to do.

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