WASHINGTON (CNN) - Just hours after Democrats celebrated an expanded majority in the House of Representatives, a public fight erupted for the leadership of a key committee charged with enacting many of President-elect Barack Obama's agenda items.
House Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Ca, is challenging Michigan Democratic Congressman John Dingell for the chairmanship of the powerful Energy and Commerce committee.
In a written statement released Wednesday Waxman, who is the next senior Democrat on the committee, said: "When the new Congress starts in January, we will face unprecedented opportunities and challenges. The public expects Congress and President-elect Obama to work together to find solutions to the nation's most pressing problems. But the issues we will confront are immensely difficult. We will need the very best leadership in Congress and our committees
Waxman's statement also focused on the most controversial issues the committee will face, making the case he could get these measures passed.
"Enacting comprehensive energy, climate, and health care reform will not be easy. But my record shows that I have the skill and ability to build consensus and deliver legislation that improves the lives of all Americans."
Waxman called Dingell this morning to tell him that he would be running for committee chairman. Dingell did not expect a challenge to the post. Since he got the news, Dingell has been calling Democrats on his committee and asking for their support.
Jodi Seth, Dingell's spokeswoman at the committee, criticized Waxman's move.
"This is unhealthy, and does not benefit the party in any way. Tearing a leadership apart is something the Republicans should be doing after their big loss; it shouldn't be the first order of business for the Democrats after a historic election," Seth said.
Dingell, who is 82, will become the longest serving member in the history of the House of Representatives next February. He's a strong supporter of auto companies based in his district and is considered conservative on energy issues. Waxman, who is friendlier to environmental concerns, is closer to Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi's office did not comment on the story.
Committee chairmanships in the House need to be approved by the full House Democratic Caucus, but are considered first by the House Steering and Policy Committee, a group appointed by Pelosi.
Let the posturing begin...
Yeah Waxman, I trust you to get a lot done.
Aren't you the same one who wasted a bunch of Congress' time on Roger Clemens? What a sideshow that was.
Politics is a bloodsport.
Waxman, we are watching you. If in fighting starts already, then I will have little hope that change is coming. This is nothing more then a reach for power. That is quite unappealing, and will give fuel to the fire for those that speculate a democratic controlled house and senate will not stop arguing, they will simply begin arguing with themselves.
There is no reason to shoot for the seat if it is and has been given to THE senior democrat on the committee.
I voted democrat and for Obama, but I'm not pleased to see this childish grab for power so early on. It's discomforting to say the least. We can vote you all out next cycle just as easy as we did with the republicans this cycle.
As usual, Democrat Politicians puttting themselves first before their constituants and the rest of the country.
I'm suprised Waxman, who is from California, as is Ms Palosi, isn't trying to kick Harry Reid from his post. I hope the members of the house don't let him get away with it. Ms Palosi has too much power as it is. We really don't need all her "friends from the west coast" taking over.. She's bad enough to put up with. I'm sure President elect Obama and V.P. elect Joe will have to stand back to back with whips and chains to keep this group in control now....LOL...
Why don't you learn from Dingell's experience, honor, and tact, congressman, and take a seat behind him?
And so the Pelosi machine begins......and you thought Obama would be in charge.....wish Obama luck, he is going to need it.
Wow. Change I can believe in.
Way to go henry. as harry said give em hell.
Ah! Obama unity is so refreshing! :(
My biggest concern is this. What the hell is up with those two gigantic pig nostrils on the face of Waxman? Jeez Louise!!!
Dingell is just that. A tired old dingell. Somebody put that guy out of his misery. Dude an barely speak without taking a break for oxygen.
As a person who voted for Obama, and wants all the republicans out. And as a native californian, I will also be one of the first to say, when this man is up for re-election, I'll vote against him for this stunt! This is not a time to create divide...dispicable man!
Quit badmouthin Henry. Just look at the ears. He be Bama's brother.
Yank Dingell. Absolutely. Anyone who backs the auto industry as is shouldn't be in office, much less head of the Energy Committee.
You are wrong "Concerned American!" John Dingell is in the pocket of Detroit and even though he is pro-labor, he has been against making Detroit make better cars.
Henry Waxman is putting Country First (as you people like to say) by risking some internal party strife to get things done for all America.
You might want to get your facts straight, "Concerned American," or keep your ignorant opinions to yourself, or risk being publicly humiliated by me.
As chair of the Government Reform Committee, Waxman has a history of fighting the good fight, taking on greedy corporations, Bush administration coverups, and Halliburton-style corruption, even if at times it has meant he has played the role of David fighting Goliath. I trust his judgement, and I think he deserves the seat.
What's the big deal? would you rather an 82 years old (no offense) lead the committee? Lazytown will evaporate once Barack is in office. Go for it, Waxman.
Let's see how Pelosi and Reid find a centrist path...
Waxman needs to work on investigating Dodds, Obama, Franks & Schumer on Fannie May & Freddie Mack failures.
These buffoons best put political ambition aside and get to work. The republicans just found out how the American voter treats those who squander our future for personal gain!
GC in Lubbock (aka Raidertown)
Waxman is a coward and a hypocrite.Nuff said.
Being from Dingell's home state of Michigan, I can say this with complete certainty...
Henry Waxman should be the chair of Energy and Commerce.
poster child for term limits