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.
Come on, Dems: The last thing we need is the same in-fighting that doomed the Dems in Congress in the 1994 mid-term elections. It seemed that as soon as the Dems controlled both Houses and the Presidency, they immediately collapsed into an orgy of special-interest struggles and back-biting.
DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN THIS TIME!! That's what all the GOP'ers were saying the last few weeks, that a fully-Dem-run gov't will run out of control. PROVE THEM WRONG!!
Forget about personal agendas. Forget about special interests. Forget about pent-up demand for pay-back after years in the wilderness. AS YOU SHOULD HAVE LEARNED IN THE EARLY NINETIES, that will lead to a VERY short run with your hands on all the levers of power, and the people will give power back to the GOP in a flash.
Listen–REALLY LISTEN–to what our new President-Elect said last night. We all (and that means BOTH Dem and GOP.... and independents, for that matter) have to work together!
The in-fighting has begun, with every Dem vying (or begging) for a power position. Supposedly Kerry is pushing to be named Secretary of State.
pathetic. this idiot cant put aside personal ambition for a second. our GREAT new president should stomp all this petty bickering out. I am ashamed that this fellow is from my Golden State
Waxman is such an annoying little man.
Now we find he is suffering delusions of grandeur.
Stow your EGO Waxman and leave the sideshow business to Ringling Brothers! Get out of the way so Dingell can get some work done!
Dingell is a great man, the Dean of the House, and has been a loyal Democratic Congressman for years. However, he is in fact in the pocket of the auto-industry that is based within his congressional district. Congressman Waxman, my Representative, is a great man as well, and will help to formulate the country's energy policy without pressure from powerful automotive corporations that are based within Dingell's own district. Good luck!
Love it. Love it. love it.
If this is how the Democrats plan on treating their own in this era of post partisanship it doesn't bode well for the rest of us.
I'm not impressed with Dingell because he bears much responsibility for domestic automakers (management, workers, suppliers) serving their personal financial interests even as they kept on building gas-guzzlers rather than foreseeing future trends that are now realities.
Granholm, Dingell, Conyers and Levin all need to go in Michigan.
They are to Michigan what Bush is to the US.
Let the pig fight at the trough begin!
Go PiggieCrats Go.
Good for Waxman! Dingell is a tool of the auto industry. He is the LAST person who should be heading the committee on Energy and Commerce. Kind of like many of Bush's picks for cabinet positions who were friends of the industries they were appointed to regulate!
May the best man win!
I trust Waxman! Bring him on! Everybody over 70 in Washington... GET OUT! You've had plenty of time to get things done, and you have NOT.
Waxman is a clown. His entire career is a horse and pony show.
The dogs are now fighting for the spoils. Tell me they are not only interested in their own power hungry ways......
This is a necessary purge if we want to get anything done on energy policy and legislation. Dingell is basically a Democrat in name only (DINO) when it comes to any environmental issue that the car companies don't like. Basically the same as if a Republican were running the committee. Waxman needs to take this seat so we can enact some pro-energy efficiency legislation and to address climate change.
Come on Waxman! Take off the Holloween mask and leave Dingell alone to continue his successful implementation of policies that positively affect us all.
Dingell has too many ties to the auto industry. He'll support the status quo of (relatively) cheap gas prices, inefficient cars, and lack of meaningful regulation / tax of carbon emissions.Those are not the kinds of policies we should have if we want to seriously address global warming, dependence on foreign oil, and innovation in the US auto industry. So out with the old and in with the new!
Waxman is a srange cat.
Okay Democrats......let's not screw this up! You need to get along and support our NEW PRESIDENT!!! If not, we will vote you OUT! Remember your terms are up in two years and out you will go!
Please don't be greedy and try to throw your weight out. You need to act like adults instead of the way the Republicans have acted the past eight years.
I don't understand most of the comments here. I have a lot of respect for Rep. Dingell, but if he is going to get in the way of a real energy policy, why not challenge him for the chairmanship? I know seniority means something, but at the same time, we should be looking to have the best people for the job in these important positions. If Waxman believes he is that guy, then he should absolutely make the case for it.
Waxman is an incredibly hardworking senator. This is not about being devisive; rather, taking the momentum of the newly invigorated government and getting something done about our pathetic for once. Take a look at what Germany, Denmark, and most other European countries are doing to get themselves out of the energy crisis. Take another look at other countries' public transportation systems. The reason we don't have either in place here falls squarely upon the shoulders of our government's support of a lame auto industry and Americans who can't handle change. Talk about no time for infighting: have you heard the environmental news lately?
Everyone needs to chill out. We don't have visibility to what's going on there and if Waxman sincerely feels that Dingell needs to go to make way for the energy policy reform this country desperately needs, then this IS in the best interests of the constituents. It's too bad that the process for committee chairs has to boil down to drawing lines down one's own party. The system obviously isn't perfect, but if it takes stepping on some toes to get the progress we need, then those of us who believe a new direction in energy policy is required should support this bold move. Get it done now before Obama gets in the White House so we're all set up for the progress we expect.