In the Loop
The Battle for Energy and Commerce
By Al Kamen
An intense intraparty battle between Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) for the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee is taking on the trappings of a traditional political battle, complete with letter-writing campaigns.
It's been dubbed "the Clash of the Titans": The Michigan Democratic Party last week sent an urgent appeal to its statewide e-mail list urging people to write a letter or sign a petition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to support the 82-year-old Dingell's effort to fend off a challenge from Waxman, the 69-year-old chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
"The attempt to unseat the Chairman is not only an attack on his position but on the working families and citizens he has fought to protect," the state party wrote, adding that Dingell had "been the driving force behind groundbreaking progress on everything from environmental protection to health care access to the auto industry."
The petition to Pelosi first took the high road, noting that President-elect Barack Obama relied on a broad coalition for his victory and "we should be uniting, not dividing the House caucus." Then it got a bit rougher: "It is adding insult to injury for you to allow the dean of the Congress ... to be removed at this crucial time. I appeal to you to stand up against this injustice."
The first test will come Wednesday, when the four-dozen-member Democratic House Steering and Policy Committee meets and votes on a slate of committee chairs and members to present to the full Democratic caucus on Thursday.
The committee is generally seen as a tool of the leadership -- meaning Pelosi. If the committee puts Waxman on its list for Thursday's vote, the caucus will see that as Pelosi putting her imprimatur -- and prestige -- behind the move to unseat Dingell.
Stay tuned ...
Posted at 3:09 PM ET on Nov 17, 2008
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